On 31 January, University of Otago celebrated the graduation of 22 Pacific students who successfully completed a 10-week internships programme through the Pacific Opportunities Programme at Otago (POPO).

The internship is part of a broader programme supported by Te Whatu Ora that provides academic, pastoral and cultural support for Pacific students studying NZQA accredited medical and health-related studies to strengthen the pathway for Pacific people entering the health workforce.

The paid 10-week internship provides an opportunity for Pacific students to work with a provider, getting hands-on experience, building skills, knowledge and relationships that will help them as they graduate from university and enter the workforce.

A total of 22 students from four institutions – Manukau Institute of Technology, Otago Polytechnic, University of Auckland and University of Otago – participated in the 2023/24 internship.

The programme started in late November with a week-long in-person training before the students were placed with their host providers in Auckland, Wellington, Tauranga, Christchurch and Dunedin for eight weeks of work experience. The students then gathered at the end of January to reflect on and share their learnings and experiences, as well take part in workshops focusing on practical skills for entering the workforce.

Pauline Fuimaono Sanders, National Head of Pacific Workforce with Te Whatu Ora attended the graduation ceremony.

“I’m always excited to hear from and meet people who have benefited from the programmes we fund, especially our young people. These students are part of the future of our Pacific health workforce and their enthusiasm and passion is inspiring.

“Some of the students who graduate through the POPO programme are the first in their families to go to university and it is enormously satisfying to know that the support they have received through this programme helped get them there.”

Since the POPO programme started in 2011, a total of 684 Pacific students have graduated with medical and health-related qualifications, including 94 students in the 2023 academic year.

group photo of students from POPO graduation group photo of students from POPO graduation group photo of students from POPO graduation