BCITO helps neurodiverse learners in building / construction

by | Sep 27, 2023

Neurodiverse learners within the building and construction sector will be offered more help to complete their apprenticeships, thanks to a new partnership between the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) and Ako Aotearoa.

It is estimated that 10 per cent of New Zealanders struggle with dyslexia, while at least five per cent have related neurodiverse conditions. BCITO Interim Operations Lead Greg Durkin said the organisation wants to make sure these people feel like a career in the trades is a viable and attainable objective.

“We want Kiwis who struggle with dyslexia or other neurodiverse conditions to know they are not alone. We also want them to know that their condition does not have to be a barrier to taking part in their apprenticeship – there is support out there.”

The support is a result of an eight-year programme in workforce development, which identified that more help was required for neurodiverse learners and their employers. BCITO has partnered with Ako Aotearoa in an effort to provide that help. Ako Aotearoa is a government-funded organisation committed to supporting New Zealand’s tertiary sector teachers, trainers, and educators.

“By celebrating neurodiversity within the industry, BCITO hopes to transform perceptions in the sector. Partnering with Ako Aotearoa, our aim is to help educate and inform employers about the benefits of working with neurodiverse people, as well as providing learners with the tools needed to succeed,” said Mr Durkin.

BCITO has also created an online resource page for employers, which includes information and resources to help neurodiverse staff flourish.

Ako Aotearoa Professional Learning and Development Consultant Dr Damon Whitten believes that employees who welcome neurodiverse learners will reap the dividends.

“If you can support them over their first year of their apprenticeship, they will go on to achieve amazing things and become some of the best people in the industry,” said Dr Whitten.

To further assist apprentices and training advisors who live with dyslexia, BCITO has provided C-Pen readers, which scan and read words aloud in a natural voice and can define them without requiring an internet connection.

“The C-Pen is a valuable tool. I have introduced it to several of my apprentices with dyslexia, who have had a massive jump in self-confidence,” BCITO Training Advisor Rhys Williams told Building Today.

“It has really helped people who would have otherwise fallen through the gaps.”

Dyslexia is a lifelong learning difference that affects reading, writing, and spelling. It may also impact time management and short-term memory. However, people with dyslexia are often strong at problem-solving and high-level conceptualisation which are essential skills for people working in the construction industry. Bridging the gaps to work with their strengths will benefit the industry significantly as well as provide jobs and autonomy for neurodiverse learners.