A lack of money should be no barrier to young Northlanders wanting to study at a new tourism and hospitality college in Paihia, its chief executive says.
QRC Tai Tokerau Resort College was opened last week with an initial intake of 19 students, all but one of whom are young Maori from Northland. Up to 50 more students will be accepted this year. Eventually the roll could grow to 350.
The college, based on Selwyn Rd in central Paihia, is a satellite campus of Queenstown Resort College but with some crucial differences.
QRC chief executive Charlie Phillips said students who qualified for a study grant, as determined by a means test, would pay about $3500 a year in fees. By contrast Queenstown students paid $13,000.
The course was residential with accommodation and three meals a day included. An accommodation allowance covered most of those costs. Students who could not afford the $80 per week shortfall could apply to the Northland Youth Education Trust.
Although set up by the college, the trust's decisions were independent.
The course was structured so that students studied for six months, completed a paid internship for nine months, then did another six months study. Even at minimum wage students should be able to earn $15,000 on internship to pay off their student loans. "So there should be no financial barrier to attending the college," Mr Phillips said.
Students had to wear a uniform from day one and meet high standards of grooming, attendance and punctuality. That meant they could hit the ground running once they started work, he said.
The course also had a strong focus on pastoral care with a "super coach" responsible for organising after-school activities such as sport, music and kapa haka. The impetus for the college came from New Zealand Maori Tourism chief executive Pania Tyson-Nathan who saw it as a way of getting young Maori employed in the tourism industry.
Mr Phillips said he was sceptical at first when she approached QRC with the idea about 18 months ago.
"We didn't think the country needed another tourism college, but then we came up here and saw we were wrong."
The Paihia campus would attract a different kind of student to Queenstown, he said.
While aimed at Tai Tokerau youth, it was open to anyone who met the entry criteria.
Future intakes would include overseas students, mostly from China, supplied by the college's business partner Shanghai CRED, the company that owns Carrington Resort on the Karikari Peninsula.
Mr Phillips said QRC had considered various locations in Northland before choosing Paihia because students would learnt a lot just by being immersed in the town's tourist industry. They are staying at Tanoa Paihia Hotel, a short walk from the college.