Kneading a way into work


When you move to a new country, your long-standing networks, a key link into employment, simply disappear.


The Bread Collective’s founder Ana Djokovic says that for newcomers to Aotearoa, finding work here isn’t as easy as just going to a job interview. “You don’t just fly into New Zealand ‘job-ready.’ Work is more complex than just being able to do a task, not to mention the various learning curves new migrants face when entering a new country.”

Through training, network building, language and mental health support, the Auckland-based social enterprise bakery is opening doors for former refugees seeking work.

Ana experienced the difficulties of integrating into a new culture when her family migrated from Serbia in 1995. Seeing her parents struggle to find work while learning English gave her an appreciation of some barriers faced by many in Aotearoa.

It also showed Ana how important work is for integration. “I can see the power of employment in helping people resettle,” she says. “We all appreciate that when we have a good day at work and are productive, it helps our sense of wellbeing. Conversely, experiencing a bad day at work or being unsuccessful in gaining employment can impact how we feel. If it happens over and over, it can erode our self-confidence and self-esteem.”

 Her background in HR got Ana thinking. “I thought a programme like The Bread Collective would be a great way to holistically support former refugees into employment.

 “I love to bake,” Ana says. “ I was on the Great Kiwi Bakeoff, and really badly tanked! So, baking, for now, is just a hobby.”

“Every culture bakes bread,” she says. “It is a product familiar to everyone and only takes a few ingredients, and baking has set routines so people don’t need advanced English to work in the industry.”

The first group of trainee bakers are from Afghanistan, Somalia, Iran, Ethiopia and Palestine. Some have never been to school before and the programme is their first formal education opportunity. One is a doctor whose registration isn’t recognised here and, while they may eventually redo their exams, they’re looking into new ways of employment.

Trainees gain professional bread-making skills and an overview of what employment looks like in the New Zealand baking industry. As they learn a new recipe each week, they develop confidence.

“People really enjoy seeing their baking progress,” says Ana. “They end the week on a high, as by then trainees have mastered that week’s bakes!”

There’s a lot of new language to absorb, and that’s where English Language Partners' support kicks in. An ESOL home tutor works alongside each person, helping build the English skills they need to complete the programme.

Marian Kerr teaches Malihe Askari, originally from Iran. The pair have become firm friends and meet each week for lessons and catch up.

“My English is not the best in the class,” says Malihe. “But my baking teacher said my Baklava and breads are definitely best!”

“It’s been a delight working with Malihe,” says Marian. “She’s so warm and friendly.”

Marian says there’s a lot of vocabulary to learn, but Malihe is a quick learner with a great memory. “We use pictures and do a lot of testing on the quantities for different recipes.”

 “Language aside,” Ana says, “I think an unexpected outcome of the partnership with English Language Partners is these new friendships. Marian and Malihe often lunch together even though they’ve only known each other a few weeks. It’s so wonderful to see that friendship and support!”

Placements with bakeries begin halfway through the six-week programme, giving trainees experience in the Kiwi workplace.

The Bread Collective also helps with the practicalities of getting ‘job ready.’  “We make sure people have a phone and laptop,” says Ana. “They’re all pre-loved, nothing too whizz-bang, but it’s important to recognise they need something to write their CV on, and a way to be contacted. As well as creating CVs, we go through employment agreements and employment rights.”

Trainees receive loaded Hop travel cards, another helpful tool for getting people to the programme and to an interview.

Partnerships with the AUT School of Hospitality and Tourism (who provide their patisserie kitchens), and local supermarkets and bakeries, create a practical path to employment or further education.

“Countdown and Wild Wheat have been an immense support throughout this programme,” says Ana. “They kindly lent us their staff to teach the programme, which means the trainees learn from professional bakers.”

Baking industry experts help to train, which gives trainees a chance to meet and interact with potential employers and, with a nationwide shortage of bakers, the benefits of bringing together job seekers and businesses on the lookout for new staff are obvious.

While a key objective is employment, friendships are made along the way, creating a budding support network.

"This course was really my dream,” says one trainee. “All the things, from first day to end, it really is all good. And I get good friends. They are really like my family."

"I was baking before, but it was traditional one,” says another. “Now I bake with my friends different kind of breads. For me, I think it is very important. If I go to a job, I think I am confident. I know this!"

 Ana is proud of the employment outcomes. “We have our first student employed, interviews for a couple lined up and we’re hoping to have the majority in the workforce soon.”

With all profits going back into the programme, The Bread Collective provides a great model for helping former refugees start a new life in Aotearoa.






  • Auckland Transport donated Hop cards
  • AUT provided classrooms, kitchens, and their expertise for informing the programme as part of the advisory team
  • Countdown provided training support, work placements and a donation towards ingredients
  • English Language Partners provides volunteer English tutors
  • KPMG provided pre-loved mobile phones
  • The University of Auckland provided pre-loved laptops
  • The Warehouse donated money for clothing, shoes and bags
  • TSB provided a $20,000 Good Stuff grant
  • Wild Wheat provided training support and work placements

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