Shea McAleese has played at two Olympic Games, two Commonwealth Games and two hockey world cup events, and at the age of 29 he is now vice-captain for New Zealand’s national men’s hockey team, the Black Sticks. His next goal is the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Since the age of 20, his semi-professional hockey career has taken him to Australia, Germany, Belgium and Holland.
But Shea understands that the life of a professional athlete is a short one and he’s already planning and preparing for the future. “I’ve done a lot in my career through study, hockey and work, but don’t have a degree. I’ve done a diploma in sport science, business courses, and I’m a qualified personal trainer. I have my own coaching company, my own website and do all my own personal sponsorships. You can be really employable and highly skilled but it’s the importance of having the degree next to it.”
So when a colleague introduced Shea to the Capable NZ Assessment of Prior Learning (APL) programmes, he was quick to see the potential and enrolled for a Bachelor of Applied Management degree. Having started the process it didn’t take long for him to see that the APL programmes deliver far more than gaining a tertiary qualification.
“I guess my ultimate aim was to get a degree but after that it was the learning. Feedback from my initial assessment said I was a really good leader but had a few gaps. My focal point leading up to my final assessment was all about leadership. I had a really good mentor so I learnt a lot through him. What was quite cool was that I could actually relate a lot of what I’ve already done and learnt. I could take it into hockey, I could take it into business, I could take it into family, I could take it into a whole array of things, and be better. That’s what’s been so exciting.”
The Capable NZ process is very different from traditional study as it’s based on learning, skills and knowledge acquired through years of work and experience. For Shea it was a process that really worked. “I’ve had my fair share of time in a classroom and I know some people really struggle with exams. Give me an oral assessment any day. The information’s already in there and once I start speaking I can get it out, whereas when you’re writing it’s a different story. So it worked around what you were doing and what’s best for you, and that’s what I really enjoyed. I always knew I was capable of getting a degree and this has been an ideal pathway.”
“It’s really opened my eyes. It just made me think more broadly. I thought I was doing everything right and I didn’t think of other avenues. It’s not that I was doing it wrong, it’s just there’s so much more that I could do, or could know, or could learn, and that’s the biggest thing about it. It’s just not necessarily that you’re doing things wrong but there are things you could add to yourself, give yourself a bigger skill set and then also make yourself more employable.”
Shea has now successfully achieved his Bachelor of Applied Management degree, and if his team mates asked him about choosing the Capable NZ pathway, his reply would be, “Definitely go for it. It’s been really good for me. I think it would help a lot of people in terms of their learning just because it’s a nice interactive way to study, it’s really supportive and it doesn’t feel like you have to work too hard at it but you do, it’s just an easier way to do it.”