On his first day at Wintec, 47-year-old Tony Togia took out a pen and opened his notebook before he noticed the rest of the class unpacking their laptops.
He is studying a Graduate Diploma in Strategic Management part-time over two years.
A lot has happened since that first day in February.
“My two sons really laughed when I told them,” says Togia with a smile.
Togia who is of Samoan descent grew up in Tokoroa. In his last year of school, he applied to study sports management, advanced computer studies and electrical engineering.
“I just didn’t know what I wanted to do.”
You could say it was like playing Russian Roulette with study, but it backfired when he was left with some big choices to make and none of them felt right.
“I was accepted for all of them and ended up taking a job at The Warehouse.”
In the early days he filled shelves and worked on the checkout before moving to the stockroom.
Later he moved to Rotorua and was encouraged to go into management training, becoming a team leader before progressing to a management role.
He has worked at Mitre 10 Mega in Cambridge for 10 years now.
“I have always let work create opportunities for me. Now I’m giving myself that opportunity,” says Togia.
“We are working in a changing environment and I might have years of experience, but I wanted to formalise my qualification. I wish I had done this earlier.”
He says he doesn’t know what the future may hold, and he is grateful for the support of his employer, Mitre 10 in giving him the flexibility to take on some study.
“The toughest thing has been getting back into learning, but it has changed in a really good way. I really enjoy the Ako concept of learning away from the traditional classroom that I am experiencing at Wintec.”
In te ao Māori, the concept of ako means both to teach and to learn. It recognises the knowledge that both teachers and learners bring to learning interactions, and it acknowledges the way that new knowledge and understandings can grow out of shared learning experiences.
“The stuff I am learning, I am using.”
Getting those assignments done has been a challenge but his 16 and 17-year-old sons have come to the rescue.
“My sons are helping me and I’m using some apps now, I hadn’t even heard of before,” laughs Tony.
Thanks to the boys he has discovered Grammarly to help with his written English and he’s also started using Canva, a graphic design platform.
“I have a whole new insight into tertiary education, and I can now talk with my sons about their plans and opportunities.”
He knows that working with people is what he likes.
“Being part of a tertiary environment has meant I am not just learning; I am meeting people. The class I am in this semester has a lot of Indian students which is really cool. I am learning more about Indian people and their culture and that’s an enriching experience.
“We’re learning a lot of cultural stuff, like the Treaty of Waitangi and how this impacts on business and this is important – I want to know more.”
Togia has advice for others who may be contemplating adding some qualifications to their life experience.
“It’s never too late. Looking back, I would have told my 20-year-old self ‘Just do it! Sign up and experience a whole new world for yourself’.”