Their careers may be in disparate fields, but mother and son Nola Tipa and Haydon Richards of Moeraki both embarked on the same qualification at the same time – Master of Professional Practice at Otago Polytechnic’s Capable NZ.

The pair was drawn to Capable NZ’s assessment of prior learning (APL) process, which credits people for their learning and experience as they work towards a formal qualification.

Nola left school at 14 but after an adult career dedicated to education, she became the Programme Leader of Education for Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

“I was one of many students who didn’t adapt well to high school,” recalls Nola. “But when I had children, I didn’t want them to end up like me – to have ability but no pieces of paper to prove it. I became very involved in their education from the start.”

That journey began at a Kaitangata Playcentre, where Nola gained her first qualification in early childhood education and continued when she gained a teaching degree and taught at her children’s primary and secondary schools.

After Nola won a scholarship to study te reo in Christchurch, the family relocated to the garden city. There, she became a resource teacher of learning and behaviour, a path that led to her role at Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, which she described as “diverse, challenging and fulfilling.”

“I decided to enrol at Capable NZ because I wanted to draw on my practical knowledge and experience of education as part of my Master’s study,” she explains.
“Something I’ve really appreciated is that Capable NZ offers support of Māori by Māori,” she adds. “Aspects of culture are innate and intrinsic, so I’ve found that assistance encouraging and very helpful.”

Nola’s son Haydon Richards is enjoying a distinguished career of his own, after establishing a business consultancy shortly after completing a Bachelor of Applied Management. His specialty is business development consultancy, a service he provides to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and Environment Canterbury.

“My role is varied and project-based, and when I first started my business I learned a great deal in a short space of time,” Haydon explains. “I was drawn to Capable NZ because it could formally recognise this depth of experience.”

The fact he could continue working – and draw on that work as part of his qualification – appealed.
“I really enjoyed the critical thinking involved in reflecting on my journey so far,” he says, “examining how I got to where I am now and where I’m heading in future.”

Haydon became Capable NZ’s first Master of Professional Practice graduate, completing his qualification with Distinction. Since then, he’s already embarked on his PhD in indigenous economic development.

Nola is now in the final stages of her Master’s, and is full of praise for Capable NZ.
“I’m telling people about it left, right and centre,” she laughs. Nola left her role at Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu in July to continue her studies.

Nola and Haydon Tipa.

Nola Tipa and Haydon Richards.