Vocational Pathway Awards

Why This Is Important

Building a productive and competitive economy is a Government priority and achievement in education is essential to this goal.  Education helps New Zealanders develop the skills needed to reach their full potential and contribute to the economy and society.

Achieving a Vocational Pathways Award means that students have achieved NCEA Level 2 in a coherent programme that aligns their skills with those that employers are looking for within six broad industry sectors.  A brief description of each of these sectors is below, for more information see Vocational Pathways on the Youth Guarantee website.

Vocational Pathway Industry Sectors

Primary Industries

The Primary Industries pathway includes any job that provides or uses raw materials, plant or animal products to make into products for consumers.  It includes agriculture, horticulture, dairy manufacture, forestry, mining, the seafood industry, landscaping and animal care.

New Zealand is good at growing things, and export-grade lamb or beef, milk products, seafood and timber industries require people with the right skills to be successful.  There are huge technological advances in this industry, making it one of New Zealand’s biggest income earners.

People will be attracted to this sector if they are interested in science and technology, confident using their initiative and are self-motivated.  They may like being with and looking after living things or enjoy working with technology and being part of important scientific breakthroughs that help our primary industry sector to thrive.  Jobs vary from doing something physical or being outdoors, or more office based jobs in the science or business side of this sector.

Service Industries

Services Industries are all about people.  From travel to tourism, hairdressing to hospitality, physical fitness to finance services, it will involve working with and talking to people, ensuring their experience is as rewarding and pleasant as possible.

Many skills from this sector apply to a number of jobs and some enable people to work and travel the world.  Being able to speak and listen well to people from all walks of life is essential.

This is a sector that demands a high level of maturity from the people who work in it as customers can be demanding and there are always processes and procedures to be followed.  Some jobs require shift work, and/or work on holidays and weekends.

Social and Community Services

This sector is about caring for people and keeping them safe.  While it can be physically and emotionally demanding, it can also be exciting and personally rewarding.  From monitoring and protecting people and property, such as corrections, defence or fire fighting, to caring for people in need; jobs in this sector are essential for community wellbeing and safety.

The social and community services sector is a high-employment and high-growth sector.  An ageing population needs to be housed, managed and cared for.  There’s a constant demand for more police, corrections and security officers, and the need for immigration, customs and quarantine officers is increasing as more people and goods move in and out of the country.

A person working in the social and community services sector will be responsible and able to manage themselves and others, and have a high level of emotional maturity.  Common sense and good sense of humour will go a long way and for some jobs a good level of physical fitness will be an advantage.  An ability to relate to a wide range of people from different backgrounds is essential.

Manufacturing and Technology

From hands-on production and assembly to cutting-edge research, from massive machines to computer design, the manufacturing and technology sector is for people who like making things work.

Jobs might involve assembling, installing, fixing, or maintaining systems; or doing a job involving lots of thinking, planning, or making lots of calculations.  This is where New Zealand’s raw materials are turned into valuable products for New Zealand’s economy – so people who work and study for a career in this sector are in high demand.

Generally in this pathway, there’s a very clear end point to the job being done and people who work in it know exactly what part they played.  This is a pathway that gets results through designing creative solutions for real problems or by being methodical, detailed and precise in implementing solutions others have worked out.

Construction and Infrastructure

Without roads, buildings, electricity and telecommunications, none of us can live or run a business properly in today’s world.  The construction and infrastructure industry is building, maintaining and repairing New Zealand, from below the ground upwards.

If putting things together and making new things from scratch sounds like fun, or visualising what things look like in your head is of interest, then this could be the right way to go. People who work in this sector need to be self-motivated, able to adapt to change, to respect other people’s tools and opinions, interact with clients, and like working with others.

Creative Industries

Creative Industries is about industries that have their origin in individual or collective creativity, skill and talent.  This pathway is for those people who work in visual and performing arts as artists/performers or technicians, or in design and development of products, including communications.  This pathway also includes those who work in film and digital technologies, and in events development and management, including heritage and cultural advice.

To be successful in this sector, talents need to be applied across different fields.  While as a creative person skills may be used individually, more commonly it will be as part of a team, resolving technical, artistic and personally challenging problems.  A person working in the creative industries sector will have high quality verbal, written, graphic and communications skills.

Many people working in this sector are self-employed, with several jobs on at the same time.  Some will be on short-term contracts, as many businesses that operate in this sector are based around regular and one-off events, seasons of work, tours and festivals.


For this indicator, two different measures are used.  The first is the proportion of all school leavers who have achieved one or more Vocational Pathway Awards, regardless of award type.  This indicator is used to show trends over time in the proportion of leavers with a Vocational Pathway Award, differences in attainment between groups by student ethnicity, age and gender and by school quintile and location.

The second is the distribution of Vocational Pathway Awards by type, among school leavers who have achieved at least one.  This is used to show how common each award type is, and to show differences in the award types most common among different groups by ethnicity and gender.

Proportion of All Students with one or more Vocational Pathway Awards


Numerator: (Data Source: NZQA Learner Business Data Store)


The total number of school leavers who had attained one or more Vocational Pathway Awards, meaning that they have achieved:

  • NCEA Level Two
  • A minimum of 60 NCEA Level Two credits classified as Recommended for the Vocational Pathway of which at least 20 must be classified as 'Sector Related'

as at the end of the school leaver year (ie. 1 March 2018 for the 2017 school leaver year).

This means that students who do not go through the NCEA qualification system, e.g. a non-NQF award such as Cambridge International exams, cannot meet the criteria for an award.

Students who have achieved more than one award are counted against each award type that they have received, but only once in the total.

Denominator: (Data Source: Ministry of Education: ENROL)


The total number of school leavers in a given school year.

Distribution of Vocational Pathway Awards by Type


Numerator: (Data Source: NZQA Learner Business Data Store)


The total number of school leavers who have attained the Vocational Pathway Award type, e.g. number of school leavers in 2017 who had attained a Creative Industries award.

Denominator: (Data Source: NZQA Learner Business Data Store)


The total number of school leavers who had attained one or more Vocational Pathway Awards.

Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria for School leavers

School leavers in 2017 are students that permanently left school to enter the workforce and/or undertake further education and training outside of the compulsory schooling system sometime between 1 March 2017 and the last day of February 2018 (inclusive). School leavers are identified using ENROL.

Students counted as school leavers are:

  • Domestic students who were aged less than 19 in their first enrolment in ENROL; including alternative education students, students 16 or over on 1 March 2018 and students attending teen parent units.
  • Students with leave reason; 'end of schooling' or 'early leaving exemption'
  • Students with leave reason 'transferred to another school in New Zealand' or 'transferred to home schooling' but did not reenrol in another school according to ENROL
  • Students with leave reason 'gone overseas permanently', who meet the age criteria
  • Students who attend for a period of time at the start of 2017 but leave before 1 March 2018 are counted with 2017 leavers.

This excludes:

  • Returning adult students (aged 19 or more) with a year gap in their attendance
  • Exchange and International fee-paying students
  • Students who successfully transferred to another school in New Zealand or to home schooling
  • Deceased students

Alternative education students are counted in the total for leavers but not reported with the school they are funded from. This is to reflect that the funding school may not be the last school the student attended.

School leavers are counted under the last school they attended for at least 70 days. If they did not attend a school for 70 days within the school leaver year, then they are included under a 'transitory leaver' group.

Interpretation Issues

Pathways and Vocational Pathway Awards are distinct.  Vocational Pathways are groupings of achievement standards classified as relevant to one of the six broad industry groupings and are available at all NCEA Levels 1 to 3.  However to obtain a Vocational Pathway Award a student must meet the criteria described above, which is achievement of standards

Total Response Ethnicity

Total response ethnicity is when people who have been identified in more than one ethnic group have been counted in each ethnic group. For the New Zealand total, individuals are counted only once. Total response ethnicity has been used for all ethnic group analysis in this indicator.

Indicator Pages


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