Providing secondary school students with insights into the "real world" of x-rays, social work and physiotherapy was the aim of Lakes District Health Board's Health Industry Big Day Out event.

About 80 students from Rotorua and the surrounding Bay of Plenty region, including Turangi and Taupo, filed through the Bay Rescue Trust Helicopter hangar yesterday to chat to health professionals and to hear from four guest speakers about their careers.

Thomas Kepa of Rotorua Boys High School is keen to be a physiotherapist. Photo / Stephen Parker
Thomas Kepa of Rotorua Boys High School is keen to be a physiotherapist. Photo / Stephen Parker

Thomas Kepa of Rotorua Boys High School said medicine was a passion he hoped to pursue.

But the 17-year-old basketballer, who wants to be a physiotherapist, said his busy timetable made the science subjects he took even more challenging.

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"The more effort I put into them, the easier it's going to be. But with sport and everything, the timetable gets a bit mucked up and I'm going to have to put in extra work as well," Thomas said.

Yesterday's event had helped him get a better sense of the industry, he said.

Fellow student Bailey Edwardson, 16, wanted to work with underprivileged children as a paediatric surgeon.

"I want to be a paediatric surgeon. Growing up in Kawerau, you see a lot of your friends and people you grow up with, real sick.

"And they never really get better – they go to the doctor, get some medicine but they never really get followed up on how sick they are. So I thought I'd try and help them out," he said.

On the other side of the coin, being able to promote their profession was a great opportunity for social workers Meagan Mackay and Faith Tuhakaraina.

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"The idea of where social work fits can be quite hard for some people to understand so the chance to talk about that is really important," Mackay said.

As a paediatric health social worker in the Women, Child and Family unit at Rotorua Hospital, Mackay said working with chronically ill children meant there was much to look out for.

"There's a lot of grief, loss, trauma as well as looking out for the social issues that may be surrounding our chronic-health children, in regards to child protection and family violence," she said.

The challenges facing Rotorua meant more local social workers were needed, Tuhakaraina said, with services such as Toi Ohomai offering pathways.

"They're really pushing more and more for local social workers here in Rotorua because people are faced with a lot of adversity – homeless, poverty, child abuse, elder abuse."

Western Heights High School student Arawhetu Waipoua-Bryers was among those at the open day. Photo / Steve Parker
Western Heights High School student Arawhetu Waipoua-Bryers was among those at the open day. Photo / Steve Parker

Tertiary Education Commission industry event adviser Ana Hau said she hoped the initiative would foster a "succession plan" for students once they finished secondary education.

"A one-day event can only make so much of an impact. It's a long-term process that not only us, as government organisations, can actually implement, it's whanau.

"So parents at home need to jump on board, schools, teachers. It's that transition from secondary school to tertiary or it could be to work, so this is what these events are about."

Held in collaboration with Kia Ora Hauora Māori's workforce programme, Hau said its long-standing relationship with Kia Ora Hauora held the event in good stead.

"And at the end of the day our rangatahi are our leaders for tomorrow and are going to be taking care of our pakeke [adults]."

Feedback about the guest speakers had been "really positive", said Pou Manukura Kia Ora Hauora Midland programme facilitator Lianne Kohere.

"Students have been inspired by our guest speakers talking about their career pathways and how they came into their profession in health and how that journey was for them, from the study, the scholarships, mentoring, Kia Ora Hauora's support to them."

But Kia Ora Hauora was still struggling to encourage students into tertiary study and health-sector employment, Kohere said.

"A lot of it is because they don't take sciences. They must understand when they're at secondary school, Year 9, it's compulsory to take sciences but when they get to Year 11 they decide to stop taking sciences.

"So that is a barrier when you come into health."