Tony Kuepfer and recognition of prior learning

What do glass-blowing and tour guiding have in common? A surprising amount, says Tony Kuepfer, who worked as a glassmaker and tutor for more than 10 years, and is now a guide and trainer at Te Papa.

“For me the only difference between working here or having my own glass studio is that I just don’t have the glass furnace. It’s a great spectator sport, so it attracts a lot of people. In my studio I dealt with thousands of people from all over the world. I do the same thing here – with millions of people from all parts of the world!”

Getting formal recognition for skills and knowledge through recognition of prior learning

When Tony changed career to become a museum host, he soon became involved in training new staff. At this point he was able to get formal recognition of his existing skills and experiences through recognition of prior learning.

Tony's assessment involved a mix of "professional conversations", where he described what he knew to an assessor, and showed examples of work he had done. "The assessor knew I’d produced a manual, and it was done on computer, so I showed her on the computer where it was stored, accessed it for her, and that was enough."

It was an intense process. “It was hard to get people to understand what my total work experience was. They’d say, ‘Oh you are a glass-blower. You ran your own studio. You worked at the polytech and taught.’ But what was hard to get across, without writing a whole book, was all the different jobs and responsibilities one has in those two areas."

This included building and maintaining equipment, ordering materials and scheduling work, dealing with people and keeping his finances in order. At Wanganui Polytechnic, where Tony taught, he had to use similar techniques for planning.

Tony’s current job brings all these strands of knowledge together. "Working here at the museum it seems like all of my past work experience has come together. About the only part of my past experience that I am not using here is actually physically making pieces of glass."

Tony’s path to a new qualification

  • After working as a glass maker for 10 years, was offered a job as a tutor in glass-blowing at Wanganui Polytechnic.
  • Got a teacher education certificate as part of his work at the polytechnic.
  • Became a museum host at Te Papa and moved into being a tour host.
  • Suggested improvements to the museum's in-house training programme, and then became involved with formal workplace training in association with the Aviation, Tourism and Travel Training Organisation, so needed to get qualified himself.
  • Used recognition of prior learning to get credit for what he already knew, and ended up with a Core Skills in Tourism Certificate and Attraction Guiding Certificates.
  • Became a trainer and workplace assessor at Te Papa.

Read more about Tony's job as a tour guide

Updated 31 Aug 2015