Whangārei student Billy Alexander-Crawford says his goal to study medicine has been further cemented by a health symposium which gave Northland youth a taste of what a career in the health is like.

Sixty young Māori high school students - about 35 from Te Tai Tokerau - spent three days in Auckland last week at The Rangatahi Health Symposium organised by Kia Ora Hauora where they got hands-on experience and learned about career pathways in the health sector.

Kamo High School student Billy Alexander-Crawford, 17, said he wants to go to the University of Auckland next year to study medicine and found out about the health symposium when he met the Kia Ora Hauora team at a careers road show.

"It's really cool to come and see other Māori students who are aspiring to be in the health profession.


"I think these programmes are important because I think a lot of the time growing up, especially as Māori, the statistics they show you tell you we don't make it - especially in health. The percentage of Māori in health is low so coming to these places you get to see that 'wow I can actually do that', it's very encouraging."

Alexander-Crawford said during the symposium students visited Waitakere Hospital where they met nurses, anaesthetic technicians and people from the health promotion and mental health and addictions teams, and did workshops where they learned what it was like to be in those jobs.

They also visited Massey University where they learned more about university.

Alexander-Crawford said he got a taste of the health sector during a similar programme last year and said the symposium had confirmed that he wanted a career in medicine after school.

"Coming to these programmes you see unique people that were in our shoes a few years a go and you hear their stories and I see myself in a couple years being where they were."

Tracey Cornell, workforce advisor for the Northland District Health Board, said the symposium was an opportunity for rangatahi to meet like-minded students and learn first-hand what it takes to start a career in health and where it can take them.

"It's critical for New Zealand that more Māori enter the health workforce.

"Māori are over-represented in our health system and under-represented as service providers in our communities. This symposium is a response to the need for greater diversity in the health sector so that it is more reflective and responsive to the needs of the communities we live in."