Instep with Innovation

Instep with Innovation

Celebrating 10 Years of Tomorrow’s Trailblazers

Today, innovation is a must in everything and anything we do. And, with work environments and career landscapes rapidly changing, building a culture of innovation in schools is becoming increasingly important to prepare our students for the future.

Young Innovator Awards is a local awards programme that challenges high school students in the Western Bay of Plenty to come up with a unique innovation to make the world a better place.

Established in 2010 by Priority One’s Instep programme, YiA supports a culture of innovation in our region’s secondary schools so that our future workforce has the transferable skills they require for further study, work and active citizenship.

“Young Innovator Awards has always been about encouraging students to think outside the square and give shape to their curiosity,” explains Andy Howells, Instep Manager. “The challenge is to come up with an innovative product or service that addresses real world problems, helping students to apply the skills needed for research, creativity, sustainability and communication.”

Rubbish talk

Last year’s entries saw students tackle textile waste, over-use of plastic bottles, air pollution and teen employment amongst many other original solutions.

The entries are judged by top Kiwi innovators, and the prize? The opportunity to participate in internships at leading businesses throughout the Bay of Plenty.

The innovation formula

Ten years ago, Ian Macrae of Page Macrae Engineering and Lyn Parlane, former Instep Manager for Priority One, sparked conversation and then planted the Young Innovator Awards seed. They kept one goal at the fore: to encourage students to use project-based learning skills to solve problems, fostering the innovative mindset required by employers then, now and into the future.

A decade on and Young Innovator Awards is proud to have had over 3000 students across the 11 Western Bay of Plenty secondary schools complete and submit entries over the 10 years that the programme has been running.

And, the programme continues to grow from strength to strength because of its strong collaborative partnerships, with impressive judges and speakers, including Sir Paul Callaghan and Sir Ray Avery, to name a few.

“Support comes from our local business community who really see YiA as valuable – even necessary – for ensuring WBOP businesses will have access to a steady stream of innovative thinkers educated here in our local schools,” explains Andy. “They have come onboard to be judges, to offer internships to winners, to provide prizes, to promote the competition across the WBOP sub-region, to provide contacts of inspiring guest speakers and so much more.”

To learn more about the awards and view previous years’ winners and finalists visit

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