August 2022, Articles

Sparky by trade, canoeist by sport

Fresh from a tough Canoe Sprint World Champs where he was competing in a new event, Tokyo Olympic athlete Kurtis Imrie heads homeward to continue his training and to put his sparky high vis vest back on.

HPSNZ spoke with Kurtis about the Prime Minister’s Scholarship which has enabled him to forge a trade as a qualified electrician, while continuing to aim for a place on the canoe racing team in Paris.

Studying something he is passionate about while also earning an income is the best of all worlds for Olympic canoeist and qualified electrician, Kurtis Imrie.

Over a period of six years, Kurtis completed his electrician apprenticeship thanks to the Prime Minister’s Scholarship and bosses who have been supportive and flexible to allow him to combine work, study and his sport.

“An apprenticeship involves night classes, block courses and on the tools work and it would have been impossible for me to become qualified without the financial support and a great deal of flexibility from my bosses over the years,” says Kurtis.

“Because of training and competition commitments I could only work two to three days a week which is why the apprenticeship took me six years to complete.

“I had to be straight up with my employers and let them know that my sporting goal was to make the Tokyo Olympics but that I also wanted to complete my apprenticeship.

“That honest conversation from the beginning enabled us to plan a way forward that would work for us all.”

Kurtis says his commitment to obtaining his qualification stemmed from a conversation he had with his parents.  “They strongly believed I needed something other than sport under my belt because I was not going to be an athlete all my life.

“The PM’s Scholarship was massive, a huge help, funding my qualification from start to finish.  It has helped open so many doors for me and I now have a fantastic degree with no student loan while being able to stay in the sport I love.”

Kurtis’ next work goal is to start his own business which, he says, means he wants to complete a business course and other study programmes to help him continue to upskill.

About the Prime Minister’s Scholarship programme

Prime Minister’s Scholarships support athletes, coaches, support team members and officials to gain educational or professional qualifications while continuing in sport.

Established by the Government in 2000 to help New Zealand’s elite athletes pursue tertiary study while developing in their sport, the programme has evolved to include scholarship categories for coaches in 2002, officials in 2005 and support team members in 2006.

The programme is administrated by HPSNZ. Find out more here.

Kurtis Imrie