Stratford swim school setting up apprentices to pass with flying colours

August 23, 2021

Flyers Swim School owner Aimee Woodhead is driven by helping her community to thrive. It’s that same love of seeing people succeed that prompted Aimee to support her staff to enrol in swim education apprenticeships with Skills Active.

Aimee was a competitive swimmer and branched out into teaching at just 15 years old. Since then, she’s been working in swim schools for 25 years, and has been running Flyers for the past 18 of those.

Like many swim educators, Aimee says she was motivated to give something back to the sporting code that had given her so much.

“Swimming is an amazing sport. It is a life skill, and it’s a super fun activity to do in rivers, beaches, lakes and swimming pools. A pool is also a community hub, with everyone coming together along with their whānau. With our tamariki, it builds up their skill sets, and squad swimming is a great learning platform for many life values for our youth.”

Aimee says that for her, the big rewards in this mahi come from knowing that she is having a direct impact on her corner of the world, by reinforcing good values to the swimmers under her care.

She says that Flyers sees itself as a social enterprise, with a strong focus on the community of Stratford where it’s based. Along with competitive swimming and lessons for everyone from babies to adults, it also provides subsidised swim education for the community through the Ako Wai programme.

Flyers has 11 staff members currently enrolled in the New Zealand Apprenticeship in Aquatics: Specialist Swim Teacher (Level 4). Lots of people are involved in helping the apprentices to succeed, Aimee says.

Skills Active learning support advisor Angie Gooch meets with trainees and makes sure they are on track. Swimming New Zealand’s Karen Dalldorf runs the external teaching courses that the apprentices need to complete. Cecile Elliot, also from Swimming NZ, assesses their work and determines when they have met the required standards.

And Aimee does the lion’s share of supporting and mentoring her staff, as they make their way through the long and sometimes challenging process of completing their apprenticeships.

This involves setting out a timeline and ensuring people understand what’s required of them, and coordinating to make sure they can access the appropriate courses in their region. Then there’s allocating time for them to attend, and time in the pool so they can get the experience they need. Aimee has also created online forms to make it easier for her apprentices to fill in their written work, and she organises group sessions where they work on their qualifications together.

“And then on an individual level, there is a lot of paperwork, all of which has to arrive at the right place at the right time. So I will be making sure it’s all been handed in, and when they are missing things, tracking them down.”

Aimee says she really enjoys this side of her job, because to her, the instructors are the heart of the organisation. She notes that many of them are part-time, with busy lives outside of swimming.

She is grateful for the government’s Apprenticeship Boost subsidy that some of the instructors were able to apply for; it means Flyers is able to pay its apprentices for the extra time they spend on their qualifications.

“It is a big commitment to do an apprenticeship and I wouldn’t expect people to do this workload without being paid for their time. I would never want my staff to feel like they were floundering, or not enjoying [the apprenticeship programme].

“I always want them to feel that they are learning and getting something out of it. Especially because teaching takes up so much energy when you’re in the pool with the kids!

“It needs to be recognised as a really important job, and the apprenticeship is one way to do that.”

Picture: Flyers swim teachers Hine Beard and Bailee Millar, fronting a stall at the Stratford High School Careers Expo.


Media contact for Skills Active

Esther McLaren

021 195 5127

About Skills Active

Skills Active Aotearoa is the transitional industry training organisation for recreation, exercise, sport and performing arts. We are a non-profit organisation, 50% owned by Māori shareholders, and funded by government to promote careers and workforce development in our industries, work with those industries to create world-class qualifications, and support workplaces to train staff.