Ara takes adult learning to Ashburton and Oamaru

News News & events

26 Sep 2016

Ara Institute of Canterbury will begin offering Computing for Free programmes in Ashburton and Oamaru from next month.

The free, flexible programmes, available from 10 October at Ara Ashburton Campus and 17 October at Ara Oamaru Campus, enable people to learn at their own pace in a friendly, welcoming environment - whether they are first-time computer users wanting to improve their employment opportunities, or intermediate users wanting to upskill and be more effective in the business environment.

It is one of the ways in which Ara has responded to the community need in South Canterbury for re-engaging adult learners and supporting regional growth through targeted, accessible training. Ara was created when CPIT and Aoraki Polytechnic joined earlier this year and the new institute is committed to improving access and extending the range of programmes and services available by continually evolving programmes and learning delivery.

New Zealand wide, the ICT industry employs almost 100,000 people, or 5% of the workforce, in over 28,000 companies, creating $32b in output in 2015, according to NZ Tech. Canterbury is also reliant on ICT, which nationally is also growing fast at 7% employment growth. Even with an average wage of $95,000, the sector suffers from a shortage of skilled workers and some employers are looking to overseas to fill positions.

“Upskilling has become a necessity in today’s professional environment. Everyone needs to know their way around a computer and some people need to acquire advanced skills for their particular job or to take the next step in their career,” Computing for Free Manager Peter Nock says.

“There are a range of self-paced, short courses of between 20 to 40 hours to introduce people to specific programmes such as Web Design and Powerpoint. However, we also offer business and job-seeking courses, and the National Certificate in Computing, which is a formal qualification that employers recognise and value.”

The timetables for the programmes are flexible to fit around family and professional commitments, with daytime, evening and weekend classes.

The facilitators who are on-hand to help are passionate about the courses they teach and the communities they teach in, providing an excellent experience for students.

Having completed Computing for Free herself, tutor Jo Harkerss understands the challenges of returning to study.

“For many people it is a huge stepping stone. They may have been made redundant or been out of the workforce after having children and here they can connect with other people and learn new skills that will make them more employable and give them confidence to try other things too.

“They might have used computers in the past, but programmes change and skills need to be updated,” she says.

Jo encourages people to simply take the first step. “The hardest thing is for people to walk in the door. Then they realise that we are really nice! And that they can do it. You see people come in who feel afraid of computers, but we are here to help them to achieve. Study is not easy for everyone, but our programmes have a good balance of theory and practice, plus the programmes are self-paced to fit around other life commitments such as work and family.”

Ashburton and Oamaru join the institute’s six community hubs in New Brighton, Bishopdale, Hornby, Rangiora, Christchurch’s Madras Street and Timaru.

Free computing courses include:

  • Access for Beginners
  • Access Enhanced
  • Computing Basics
  • Computing Basics DT
  • Excel for Beginners
  • Excel Enhanced
  • Keyboarding for Beginners
  • Powerpoint for Beginners
  • Publisher for Beginners
  • Web Design for Beginners
  • Word for Beginners
  • Word Enhanced

Enrolling is easy at any of the community hubs or by visiting