Refreshed service goes from strength to strength | ELPNZ

Refreshed service goes from strength to strength

27 January 2017








"Generally, the average age for people who come to the Job Mentoring Service is getting younger, but they have more skills", says Jos Kunnen.

Jos Kunnen speaks with the voice of experience. Over the past 15 years, the Wellington company director has worked with so many jobseekers through English Language Partners, he can’t remember the precise number – and he’s also played an important role in the service’s evolution. 

“It’s 18 or 20 jobseekers; I’m the longest-standing and the oldest mentor,” laughs Jos, who began his career as an engineer and then moved into technology management, working for national and international companies. 

After returning from working in Australia in 2002, he saw an advert for volunteer job mentors and thought it would be a good way to use his skills to contribute to the community. 

The service provides employment support to skilled refugees and migrants from a non-English speaking background. A trained mentor works with a jobseeker, offering support, advice and information on how to find work.

“I’ve met and worked with an amazing bunch of people,” says Jos. “I’ve also seen the programme grow and develop. It used to be very much about one-to-one mentoring, but has morphed into a more supportive system, and I’m proud to have been involved in that. 

“The coordinator and some of the experienced mentors met to discuss ideas for refreshing the programme. We developed collateral, including a road map, and an introduction to job seeking. 

“There can be a delay of up to a month between a jobseeker applying for a mentor and being assigned one. Now they start off with network nights and organised events. 

“I now spend more time running workshops and helping groups of people than on individual mentoring. Mentors also come along to regular meetings to share ideas.”

Jos says a major challenge is that job hunting in New Zealand is often quite different from what people are used to.

“For some, the traditional way people get jobs is through friends or family, so they aren’t used to formal interviews. 

“Another challenge is understanding how organisations behave. It’s important to build a network here. When I first started doing this, recruiting was still mainly through recruitment agencies or adverts. Now it’s more about word of mouth and social media. 

“In our networking sessions, people practise introducing themselves and making small talk in an environment they feel comfortable in.”

Jos says Job Mentoring Service coordinator Laura Clavijo is a model example of a good approach to job seeking. Laura had 10 years’ experience working in human resources when she moved to Wellington from Uruguay in 2015, after her civil engineer husband was offered a permanent job. 

“I was struggling to find a job and I heard about the Job Mentoring Service, had an interview and was assigned a brilliant mentor,” says Laura. 

“My mentor helped me to understand the New Zealand job market and to update my CV to Kiwi style. 

“She also recommended I do some volunteering, which I did, with the Human Resources Institute of New Zealand, which was really useful. I also went along to workshops presented by Jos and other mentors.”

Ultimately, Laura was offered a six-month position in human resources (HR) with an international company, but another opportunity had also arisen. Job Mentoring Service coordinator Olga Smith was due to go on maternity leave.

“I applied to cover Olga’s position during her maternity leave and was successful and decided this was the right role for me,” says Laura. 

“It’s the first time I have used my HR experience in the non-government sector but I can’t think of a better way to start my career in New Zealand than this, using my skills to help people.

“It is amazing how the team works. We currently have 56 mentors and 72 jobseekers. 

“Former jobseekers are also becoming job mentors; people working in areas like IT, government organisations, consultancy and the public sector. 

“The service is funded by the Ministry for Social Development on an outcomes basis, so it has to deliver results. Combined with the voluntary support of our job mentors, it is a very effective use of tax payers’ money

“It has been successful from the outset but our results are getting better and better.” 

More about our Job Mentoring Service