Empowering rangatahi to live their best life

Smart Waikato’s Career Hauora addresses the serious problems of career anxiety experienced by young people, and a shortage of career practitioners in schools. It is a comprehensive suite of activities and resources incorporating careers, life skills, wellbeing and real world experiences. 

The resources are self explanatory and designed so that anyone can deliver the learning. Career Hauora enables subject teachers and youth coaches to “empower young people to live their best lives”, while positively impacting the labour market and local economic development.

Career Hauora was piloted at Hillcrest High School in 2022, and has now been adopted at Fraser High School and Paeroa College, as well as the Youth Development Sector.

Career Hauora’s delivery of pre-prepared lessons by 80 subject teachers was first undertaken in COVID-interrupted 2022, across Hillcrest High’s 1720 students, during form/hauora time. Despite it being an extremely disrupted year, students reported a 22% improvement in their Career Wellbeing as a result of the programme. 

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Career Hauora delivery of pre-prepared lessons by 80 subject teachers was first undertaken in COVID-interrupted-2022. This occurred across Hillcrest High’s 1720 students, school-wide, during form/hauora time. Despite it being an extremely disrupted year, students reported a 22% improvement in their Career Wellbeing as a result of the programme. This initiative, supported by local industry and employer experiences, has continued into its second year in 2023 at Hillcrest and further rolled out into a rural secondary school; Paeroa College, a high population Māori school; Fraser High, and a youth development organisation; Blue Light.

Participants in Pilot 2022-2023

  • 2200 students/youth
  • 85 educators
  • 3 Waikato Secondary Schools
  • 1 Youth Development organisation
  • 20 + businesses

Co-created with feedback and input from:

  • Secondary School staff and students (especially Hillcrest High School)
  • Ministry of Education
  • Waikato Wellbeing Project
  • Career Development Association New Zealand (CDANZ)
  • Mayor’s Task Force for Jobs
  • Careers and Tertiary Educators
  • Employers
  • Ministry of Social Development
  • Tertiary Educators

Written by leading NZ Career Practitioners

  • Linda Nelson Caie, HR Expert
  • Nicola Foote, Careers and Pathways Advisor
  • Claire Oehley, Compass Careers
  • Gabrielle Riley, Career Talk
  • Heather Lowery-Kappes, Career Journey NZ


  • Integrates life skills and careers education into general learning
  • 200 modules (40 per year group, Years 9 to 13), 83 worksheets and guides, 64 slideshows, 18 videos
  • Professional development for subject teachers
  • Local and relevant industry sector information and experiences
  • Utilises FutureForce® Careers Hub, endorseMe® Employability Record and Career Central


  • Years 9-13 framework
  • Long-term initiative
  • Co-created and collaborative
  • Delivered by subject teachers in form/hauora time across 2 terms per annum
  • Holistic approach using Te Whare Tapa Whā model of hauora (wellbeing)
  • Supplements the work of careers advisors
  • Incorporates SSEP and STEP (i.e. employer engagement/tertiary educators)
  • Tailored to meet individuals’ age and life stage

Why Integrate Careers and Hauora in schools?


As part of the Waikato Wellbeing Project*, a 2020 hui with over 60 experts working with youth in Waikato found:

  1. Many youth (rangatahi) struggle to transition from education to work
  2. Many youth are not well prepared for working life and lack ‘employability skills’
  3. Youth wellbeing is affected by:
    • Lack of clear direction and pathways
    • Lack of confidence
    • Poor mental and/or physical health
    • Cultural and social inequities

Based on empirical research and supported by personal observations in their work, hui attendees all agreed:

  1. Having a purpose in life (studying, working, volunteering, caregiving etc.) has a significant impact on hauora.
  2. The current ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’ model to supporting young people struggling to transition into the workforce is too late for many youth.
  3. More help is needed earlier so students still in school have hope, purpose and a pathway for their future.
  4. We all want our young people to thrive.

* For more on the Waikato Wellbeing Project see www.waikatowellbeingproject.co.nz

Research and Impact

Quantitative and qualitative data was collected throughout the 2022 pilot.

  • Students were surveyed twice via SurveyMonkey, 5 months apart, to assess the impact of Career Hauora.
  • Staff were surveyed to gain feedback on the resource structure and content as well as the staff professional learning and development sessions.
  • Several student and staff focus groups were held covering resource content and accessibility, time allocation and structure and overall effectiveness in enhancing student Career Hauora.

Personal impact of Career Hauora

  • Reduces career anxiety
  • Increases sense of self
  • Offers hope and aspiration
  • Creates stronger connections with school and class
  • Prepares students for life beyond school
  • Improves work readiness
  • Provides direction for self-guided learning

      Career Hauora delivers the following significant benefits

      • Greater retention of students at school, leading to lower NEET rates, higher achievement and better transitions into work and training.
      • Development and promotion of entry-level work opportunities and tertiary education training pathways.
      • Fosters strong local schooling, tertiary and employer connections to develop skills pipelines supporting future local labour market needs.
      • Positively affects rangatahi wellbeing through earlier intervention, supporting career pathways in schools.

          Economic Impact

          Alongside the much needed improvement in wellbeing that Career Hauora gives to our rangatahi, it also positively impacts economic development. Through Career Hauora, young people are better informed about local industries, they are more work ready, their career and study aspirations are raised and ultimately their career decisions are better aligned to growth industries. Local employers are invited to connect with schools and students, enabling real education and employment pathways. Career Hauora is scaleable as resources can be utilised nationwide across all secondary schools, all teachers and all year levels, as well as all youth organisations.

              Alignment with Regional and National Strategy

              Career Hauora directly addresses the Ministry of Educations’ National Education Learning Priority 7, “collaborate with industries and employers to ensure learners/ ākonga have the skills, knowledge and pathways to succeed in work.”

              Career Hauora also supports the Waikato Workforce Development action plan, specifically action 16 “Improve the quality of careers guidance for young people in the Waikato.”

              Career Hauora aligns with the Tertiary Education Commission’s report “Transitions from Secondary School (2022) and the Career Education Strategy.

                  About the Career Hauora imagery: A career is a journey requiring action and effort to keep moving forward. The paddler needs to paddle on both sides to keep the waka moving in a straight line.  Direction can be changed at any time.

                  The two crossed hoe (paddles) represent a starting point or end goal.  A crossroad and interconnection.  Crossing the hoe in these designs connects the symbols; career and hauora.  Each element affects the other and both are important for life-balance.

                  The manawa koru design on the hoe with the breath line down the middle refers to self / life breath / Rangi and Papa.  The three manawa represent self-whānau-community and past-present-future.

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