Celebrating Five Years of SSEP

SmartNZ’s Secondary School Employer Partnerships is an award-winning initiative raising student aspirations, resulting in higher achievement, retention and better transitions.

SSEPs are formal relationships between secondary schools and local employers from a range of industries. Employers work with teachers to contextualise student learning at a year 9 and 10 level across the whole cohort. SSEP provides a “real world” application of the curriculum and exposes students to a wide range of career pathways. SSEP involves learning both inside and outside the classroom.

SSEP supports the New Zealand Educational and Learning Priority (NELP) objective to “Collaborate with industries and employers to ensure learners/ākonga have the skills, knowledge and pathways to succeed in work.”

SSEP has been operating in the Waikato since 2016 and has been adopted in Mid-Canterbury in 2021.

Impact of SSEP

Schools are describing SSEP as creating transformational change in the way that students are learning.

In 2021, 35 schools across the Waikato region are participating in SSEP including mainstream, special character and kura kaupapa Māori.

Celebrating Five Years of Impact

Watch the Video »

SSEP Student Survey Results 2016 – 2020

Percentage of Year 9 and 10 students that answered ‘YES’ to:
“Has the experience of having business people in your school and going out into their workplace…”

Impact on Student Rentention, Engagement and Achievement Aspirations

In 2017, 546 SSEP students responded to a survey assessing the impact of the programme. It was independently analysed by a senior statistician from Hamilton City Council using the ordered logit model.



Key findings:

SSEP showed significant impact on students intention to stay in school, attitudes towards subjects, and qualification expectations.

Longitudinal Study – Fairfield College

Since SSEP was introduced at Fairfield College in 2016, students have elected to take ‘harder’ maths in their senior years.


increase in students selecting ‘Academic’ Maths at Year 12


increase in students taking Calculus at Year 13

Fairfield College students’ actual rate of completion:

increased by 40%  for Year 12
increased by 32% for Year 13

Fairfield College students’ continued selection of the SSEP subject (Maths) has:

increased by 18% in Year 12
increased by 9% in Year 13

SSEP Canterbury


SSEP was launched in Mid-Canterbury in September 2021, in collaboration with the Ministry for Primary Industries. Through SSEP, Canterbury schools can partner with a wide range of employers to support contextualised learning across the food, fibre and associated industries.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said, “By reaching young people in secondary schools, we can show them a huge range of exciting career pathways on offer and pique their interest in rewarding and life-long careers in our food and fibre sector.”

We are delighted to announce the first nine Canterbury secondary schools to start in SSEP in 2022.

» Ashburton College
» Darfield High School
» Ellesmere College
» Hillmorton High School
» Mount Hutt College
» Middleton Grange School
» Papanui High School
» Oxford Area School
» Rangiora High School 

Download the SSEP Canterbury Leaflet »

Missed the launch? Watch it here »

Canterbury schools or employers interested in SSEP, please contact SSEP Canterbury Facilitator Amber Law: [email protected]

Supported in Canterbury by:


SSEP began as a regional economic development initiative to address skills shortages and youth unemployment in the Waikato region.

In 2015, Smart Waikato undertook a global literature search to identify best practice school-employer connections that:

  • Improved student engagement in school and their learning
  • Improved student achievement and retention to minimum employability level
  • Encouraged students to explore potential career pathways in local industry

Based on these findings, in 2016 Smart Waikato designed and piloted SSEP in five Waikato secondary schools.

Each year, teacher, employer and student participants are surveyed to evaluate the programme and its impact.

Informed by these key stakeholders, SSEP has developed into an established framework that has been successfully integrated across a variety of pedagogical approaches to teaching including traditional, cross-curricula and project-based learning.

The framework is supported by a comprehensive suite of online resources and SSEP helpdesk for facilitators and participants.

Our SSEP Employer Partners

SSEP would not be possible without the support of our employer partners across the region. To date, we have had over 200 employers involved with SSEP, donating about $280,000 worth of volunteer time each year. Click on the image below for a closer look.

Benefits of Licensing
SmartNZ’s SSEP Initiative

SSEP creates a framework where schools and employers have a clear understanding and commitment to work together contextualising classroom work into the real world. This helps to develop relationships from senior school and beyond, setting up career pathways in local employment. Ultimately, employers know how to engage, and educators know where connections needs to take place.

  • A proven programme that allows industry to showcase career pathways, increases student engagement, educator industry knowledge and employer awareness of young people.
  • 5 years of research to support the programme, validated by external source
  • Extensive facilitator training and regular coaching by certified trainer accompanies the licence
  • Tailored to local industry employment opportunities and individual school learning objectives
  • Extensive resources available to assist facilitators, teachers and employers
  • Independent analysis and evaluation of individual school programmes at year-end
  • Raise student aspirations, especially Māori and ensure they choose/retain important subjects in senior school that align with chosen pathways
  • More successful transitions from school into jobs/training in local industry

For more information, and to bring SSEP to your region, please contact Mary: [email protected]

SSEP Resource Centre

The SSEP Resource Centre houses SSEP examples, templates, how-to guides and more. It is exclusively available to all registered SSEP schools and employer partners and helps build capability to ensure the initiative is sustainable well into the future.

The SSEP Resource Centre is located on the SmartNZ website and includes:

  • Induction and promotional material for teachers, students and employers new to SSEP
  • Teacher and employer tips for getting the most out of SSEP
  • Ideas and examples of SSEP activities
  • Virtual SSEP videos and workplace visits to support classroom and distance learning
  • Planning tips and templates (Education outside the classroom (EOTC), Health and Safety, lesson plan examples, ‘how to’ guides and more!)
  • SSEP Network forum to connect and share ideas with other SSEP schools and employer partners

Contact your nearest SSEP Facilitator to get involved

Anna Allison
SSEP Project Manager

[email protected]

Erin Gray
SSEP Facilitator Southern Waikato

[email protected]

Shayle Manawaiti
SSEP Facilitator Southern Waikato and Kura Kaupapa Māori

[email protected]

Amber Law
SSEP Facilitator Canterbury

[email protected]

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