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Christopher Fenton (Chris)

Māori Scholarship

Chris Fenton (Ngāi Tahu) had an established career as a Mechanical Fitter but decided to ‘down his tools’ and follow his true passion: computers and technology. After enrolling in the Diploma in Information Technology Technical Support, Chris was awarded a Māori Scholarship from Ara, which helped to alleviate some financial strain caused by leaving a full-time job, to become a full-time student. For Chris, the field of ICT holds exciting possibilities and in the future he has visions of setting up his own computing business.

What Ara programme are you studying?

The New Zealand Diploma in Information Technology Technical Support (Level 5).

What’s your career/tertiary education background?

This is my first time studying at a tertiary level. Before this I went to Linwood High School and then worked as a tradesman in mechanical fitting. I was extremely fortunate to be offered an apprenticeship and worked very hard to complete it. I made a lot of good friends, gained general handy-man skills and it took me around Australia and the world. But I know my body can't support me to be a heavy mechanic forever, so I decided to change career and start by studying IT through Ara.

How did you find out about the Māori/Pacific scholarship?

An Ara tutor suggested it when I approached them for extra help. It's good to see the support is there if you ask for it.

Why did you apply for this scholarship?

Leaving a full-time well-paid job for study was a very hard decision and I had to make sure all my ends were sorted before I took the leap. The extra financial support is immensely helpful. I thought it was a good thing to apply for and if I was successful, I could tell others and share my story.

How did you pitch yourself in your scholarship application?

I talked about how I was encouraged into a trade early in my life. During and after high school I was always interested in computers, but my father didn’t think it was a viable path at the time. “Pursue a higher level of education” is what my mother always used to say to me when I was younger. That’s what I'm doing now.

What impact did this scholarship have for you?

It’s given me a bit more breathing room at home and less stress thinking about finances. It’s great to have a bit of extra money for learning materials and snacks at lunch!

What would you say to others thinking about applying for scholarships?

Go for it! Get in early though because they get snapped up fast. You miss 100% of the shots you don't take, so shoot your shot!

Why did you choose to study at Ara?

Ara’s whole vibe was familiar and safe, and I found it easy to apply. I've studied here before, back when I did my mechanical trade and also a plumbing/drain laying course, both at the Woolston campus.

What appeals to you about ICT?

The future of it - where it's going and the endless potential in the industry. It would have been good to get in 10 years ago but it's better late than never.

What are your short- and long-term career goals?

In the short term I want to finish my current diploma, then do the six-month Māori language course and then find an internship / junior IT position by the end of the year.

In the long term I would like to stay with a company and grow my career for the next 3-5 years. In the future I can see myself starting my own computing business.

What advice would you give to others about studying?

Just pop down and have a chat with the student advisors or tutors. The first step is going there and making that initial connection. I hope I can inspire younger people to chase their dreams and show them it’s possible to succeed when the odds are stacked against you.