This year's Summerhill Youth Academy course, aimed at giving young people who are soon to leave school help in understanding business and career options and useful life skills, starts on Sunday.

The academy, now in its sixth year, was conceived by David and Cloie Blackley who have lived on a working sheep, cattle and forestry farm in the Papamoa Hills for more than 50 years.

The Blackleys make their land available for public recreation, providing a wide variety of mountain bike tracks, walking and running trails, a BMX jump-park and a Mongolian ger (or tent) where the academy is based.

"The goal of the academy is to give Bay of Plenty young people a springboard into a lifetime of confidence," said Mr Blackley.


Garth Collings, chief executive of the academy since it began, said 22 young people were signed up so far for this year's course, but the academy still had room for six more.

The cost of attendance is largely funded by the Blackleys through their trust. The course usually requires a $100 bond, refundable on completion of the course, but this year a weekend camp had been added, so there was an extra charge of $100 to offset the costs of the camp.

Participants would attend nine Sundays and two Saturdays of courses between February 15 and the end of June, said Mr Collings.

About 20 speakers have been lined up to provide information on business experience, cultural awareness, career and study options, how shares and interest work, the potential pitfalls of credit cards, public speaking, and environmental issues.

The course includes adventure-based learning and activities to foster leadership.

The course was geared towards motivated people aged 15 to 20 and most suited to school years 11, 12 and 13, but young people who had left school and were slightly older could also benefit, said Mr Collings.

"We've put a lot of young people through the course and we've got it down to a pretty fine art now," he said.