By Nigel Sutton, Director, Wellington High School Community Education Centre
Wellington High School Community Education Centre (“CEC” for short) is New Zealand’s largest in-school provider of adult community education. We have over 7,000 enrolments and we offer over 800 courses annually. CEC provides a hugely diverse range of courses: languages, cooking, art, crafts, workshop, recreation, dance, writing, personal and professional development, business and more. While we are well known for offering a wide range of courses we think that some people might be surprised to learn that we have a dozen different business courses and around the same number of computing courses.

We have a selection of very popular offerings. Our Accounting – The Basics course ($175 for 8 weeks of 2 hour classes) is one that consistently attracts strong enrolments because of the perennial need for these skills. A newer offering that has seen strong demand has been our E-Commerce: Starting an Online Business course. This course is tutored by 27 year old, Felix Page. Leaving university with a science degree Felix found no employment, so he taught himself how to use social media marketing for business success. Then he taught others to do the same. Felix now trains people in how to start successful online businesses while running his own drop shipping company in the USA and social media company here in New Zealand. He also tutors both this course and our Social Media for Small Business course.

We stay tuned to trends and student needs and demands so that we can reflect the learning needs of our community.

Andrea is a successful business woman is in her late 50’s and is one of Felix’s students. She keenly feels the changing world around her and she feels jaded by the ever increasing compliance and the complexities of the Internet world we live in. The changed health and safety legislation is another cause for concern, she says. She feels businesses are being suffocated by rules and regulations. Now that Andrea is towards the end of her career, she is looking for what she will do next and preferably without the growing regulatory burdens she feels surround her currently. So she took our E-commerce: Starting an Online Business ($80 for 3 hours) course with a view to finding a new way to earn income, as she moves away from full time work. She seeks employment that will be less burdened with compliance and which she can do more flexibly from anywhere in the world. Andrea is realistic after the course – “there’s still a lot of work to do in order to have an online business, but yes I got a really good head start on how to do it and how to get going.”

Another popular business course CEC offers is Starting a Small Business ($110 – 4 weeks of 2 hours) with tutor Sam Allison who owns a successful café and a separate sushi business. Sam brings his expertise from running businesses to provide a thoughtful and practical course for students. One such student is late-30’s Wendy, who currently works in a food business and dreams of running her own eatery. She has run the food business for her boss for four years and feels she has the skills to be the boss, not the employee. She sees courses such as this as her knowledge bridge to opening her own business. For Wendy courses like this fill the gaps, she has the practical food preparation and handling skills, but seeks to deepen her understanding of the financial and regulatory sides of running a business.

Another student doing this course is Hunter McDonald, a 28 year old who has previously completed a te reo Māori course with CEC. When I asked Hunter what had motivated him to do our Starting a Small Business course he answered, “There’s just areas I don’t really have any experience in, I mean there are sort of subjects like location, start-up geography like what works best, I knew that who was taking this course had experience in hospitality” and so he enrolled to get answers to these issues.

Hunter felt that the course was well worthwhile, “I learned some unexpected things, like the tutor has a branded car permanently parked in the public car park of his business – as a form of advertising – I wouldn’t have thought of things like that.”

In her late 50’s Julie works as a government adviser and has a background in social work. Her interest is in setting up a business of her own and helping her partner with his swimming pool business. She has completed both our Accounting –The Basics and our Social Media for Small Business courses. Julie says she that while she doesn’t have a business background she does have some business skills, “I do some bits myself, I set up spreadsheets and things, but when it comes to looking at other stuff, like writing a business plan, well what is that? And how do I find out?” So she decided to try our Starting a Small Business course, “I thought I’d come along here and find out a bit more.” When I asked her if she felt our eight hour course would give her the information she needed she replied, “I don’t think it’ll answer everything but it will give me a few pointers on which to build. I think it’ll give me some ideas for starting.” She found the course very worthwhile and feels more confident that she understands business basics now.

CEC also offers several computing skills courses and these are popular both with small business owners who want to be able to use various computer software packages, such as Xero, and with professionals looking to up-skill for their jobs. Our Microsoft Excel courses have increased in popularity after dwindling about three years ago. It seems that the Excel software programme continues to be heavily used in many workplaces and businesses. We also find our Adobe suite of courses: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign and Adobe Lightroom are all popular options for business owners and professional up-skilling.

The thing about CEC is we really do try to offer something for everyone. While many know us for art, craft, language, cooking and hobby-style courses, we also have numerous professional development and business courses. We offer the very best quality courses as affordably as we can. We stay tuned to trends and student needs and demands so that we can reflect the learning needs of our community. We pride ourselves on offering the very best courses with superb tutors for affordable prices. It’s not easy trying to be both the best and the most accessible but it is a challenge we willingly take on for our learners.