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'India Is A Powerhouse And Perhaps People Have Underestimated The Power Of India'

Penny Simmonds the CEO of the Southern Institute of Technology, New Zealand is on her fourth visit to India to take back some engaging lessons for her students in New Zealand

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Penny Simmonds is the longest serving Chief Executive Officer in New Zealand as old as 20 years and she is happy to come once again to India. “This is my fourth visit to India. Every time I come here I take back great memories and insights for my students. There are about 350 students from India studying in Southern Institute of Technology (SIT). We offer a range of programmes mainly at bachelor degree and postgraduate diploma and masters programmes.”

So is New Zealand conducting any exchange programme with Indian students? She says, “As of now we do not have any exchange programme. We are in talks with a couple of institutes in India to take this exchange programme as part of their qualification. We have a number of students who take education for three years, gain knowledge and earn a permit to work in the industry of their qualification in New Zealand. This will be added advantage for them to learn and review their area of expertise and have a job in hand. For this purpose, we offer a range of subjects and professional courses like engineering, IT, digital media, films and nursing that are gaining popularity. Environmental management is another subject liked by the students for the simple reason that New Zealand is well-known for a clean and green environment so a number of people come here to learn the policies and practises behind our clean image.”

As per the sector that Simmonds wants first to initiate in New Zealand in the next two months as part of the exchange programme is the agriculture sector, which is in high demand. “New Zealand is known for high productivity and use of technology in the agriculture sector and so in this regard, I am meeting a number of organisations this time in India. Both the countries foresee a lot of opportunities to work together in this sector.”

But what about the teaching methods in the education system in New Zealand? “New Zealand focusses on problem-solving instead of rich learning and so it is uncommon to find the student who comes from India have been used to being feed the information, retaining it whereas, in New Zealand, the students think and solve problems themselves. It is just a different learning style. But for us, it works well as we are a small country hence train everyone in problem-solving. It encourages them to nurture their entrepreneurial skill because they are constantly looking for opportunities to overcome challenges.”

Furthermore, the New Zealand government is supportive of SIT and is helping to work with different organisations. “The immigration policies are linked to education policies in New Zealand and so additional points are given to potential migrants who have studied in NZ and gained post graduate qualification. India is in a different situation to New Zealand. India has a large group of skilled people while New Zealand is a small country with the shortage of skills in key areas like engineering, construction, so the shortage of labour is constraining the economic growth. That’s why we have an open policy in terms of immigration and international students coming to New Zealand.”

While the students should understand the enormous potential of India, Simmonds believes that India is growing fast in productivity and technology. “I think it is important for New Zealand students to build a relationship with Indian students. Students can understand culture, challenges and opportunities in both the countries with these exchange programmes so by the time you are in a workforce you gain knowledge about the nation. New Zealand students should learn from Indian economy as it is one of the biggest powerhouses and perhaps people have underestimated the power of India,” she adds.

In terms of mentoring the students for business skills, SIT offers a postgraduate programme in the business enterprise which is geared around all aspects of starting your business. “The students think of unique ideas and present them to a panel of judges. For this purpose, we are also linked with the Chamber of Commerce in Southland to make sure students come out with right skills and start work on their favourite project. We are also discussing to set up a cell for Indian students in India, but it’s too premature at the moment.”

Simmonds has been an entrepreneur herself and for young entrepreneurs she feels, “The key is to do research very well, understand your product and be very positive. Put all your blood, sweat and tears into your passion. But don’t expect miracles overnight. You don’t become a millionaire overnight,” she concludes.

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