When you first meet solo mother of two, Salanieta (known as Sala), you are blown away by her beautiful smile and unassuming demeanour. Her positive, no-nonsense, outlook becomes apparent as soon as you start talking to her and you get the feeling that there’s a good belly laugh just around the corner. She’s fun.
And yet for Sala life hasn’t always been a barrel of laughs. Last year, she had entered into that cruel statistic the media love to throw around, long term unemployed. If you haven’t experienced it, it’s hard to explain the impact it has on you.
Now, less than a year later, she is in full-time employment as manager of the Chilled and Frozen Department at Fresh Choice Supermarket in Glen Eden. Her kids are happy that she is working and she is too. The smile is back!
So what changed? Sala spoke with us about VisionWest Training Centre and what a difference it made for her and her family.
Sala had been volunteering at the Kelston Community Hub and supported her family through government Income Support. Sala was happy to lend a hand wherever needed and she volunteered lots in her local community. But volunteering is exactly that, so there was no pay, and no jobs were opening up either.
Her local Work and Income office referred her to the Training for Work programme run by VisionWest Training Centre. There, everything began to change. Sala explains, “[Course Tutors] gave us so much help. They helped us learn about dressing the right way and when we got a job interview, they did preparation with us so we could practice how the interview might go first. It was really good being able to go out to do different work experience – even if it was not what we wanted to do long term, there was such a lot of different work experiences. And they helped us improve our CVs.” Restoring people’s self-belief and giving them confidence is a key aspect of the programme. One of the Training Centre course tutors is Val Maskell.
Val is super passionate about what she does, telling people about VisionWest, and working hard for the people who need a bit more support to get into sustainable employment. She described Sala for us: “Sala is awesome. She has a friendly, bubbly personality which makes her an ideal candidate for a role in the service industry. She has the ability to pick up systems and processes quickly and loves working with people. She [uses] her personality to lighten the working environment with her sense of humour and fun. Sala is not afraid of hard work and [she’s] willing to go the extra mile” Sala returned the sentiment, “the best thing about VisionWest were Val and Sue [course tutors]. They helped us a lot. Val is awesome.”
During her time with VisionWest Training Centre, Sala did several different work experience placements, one of which was with Fresh Choice in Glen Eden. Sala demonstrated her great work ethic so, when she finished the course, she was immediately accepted when she applied for the vacancy that became available. Now, she has worked hard and been promoted to Manager in her department. When she was asked what her goals were for the future, she said, “Ooh, I don’t know about the next couple of years… I think I see myself staying here for the moment – it’s where I am happy; it’s my second home. The best thing about working at Fresh Choice are the other workers. They are great and we can have a good laugh about things and enjoy working here.”
The Training for Work programme has continued to develop and in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development is now known as Mahi Ora: Working for You. Many of our participants come to us from Work and Income referrals. Many have been unemployed for very long periods of time. The transformation we hope to work with them on is not just about education, its also about restoring their hope and their confidence. We work with each participant to identify their skills and strengths. Like Sala we work with them to build a CV, with cover letters.
We help them prepare for interviews, and really focus on their communication skills. Our partnership with the Ministry of Social Development means now that after we have worked with them for up to 6 months, once they are employed, we continue to support them for the next year of their employment. This allows us to really journey with our participants.
We’ve built quite a comprehensive set of programmes at the Training Centre now; all focused on helping people gain and sustain employment. We have our Youth Guarantee programme working with 16 to 19 year olds in the areas of carpentry and hospitality. We have our Foundation Course in Intensive Literacy and Numeracy, which gives people the skills they need to function well in today’s work environments and then of course, we now have our Mahi Ora programme.
All this means that more people like Sala are getting more opportunities to learn new skills, gain experience, and get the support they need. Sala is the perfect example of how programmes like these help give the participants a really positive outlook about their working situation and their ability to provide for their families.
Now that’s what we call Transformation!