Take Clay Bricks, for example. It’s owned by former bricklayer Eric Finlay and his wife Vickie, a former nurse and trained midwife. Nearly 20 years ago, the couple bought a piece of land, cleared the gorse, built a huge shed and installed a dryer, kiln and everything else necessary to make bricks.
Today, they make half a million bricks each month. The plant can operate 24/7, the clay is sourced locally, and the bricks are sold all over the North Island. There are eight full-time staff; two of the team are the Finlay’s sons and three are new migrants.
Ted Rediang is one of the new ones. He came to New Zealand from the Philippines as a skilled migrant on a resident’s visa and having worked in IT, including for IBM, thought he’d get a job fairly quickly.
However, the computer programmer with more than 10 years’ experience says he must have applied for 50 positions without success. Then his wife found English Language Partners online.
They went to the Settlement Centre Waikato, in Hamilton, where staff recommended English Language Partners’ English for Job Seekers programme.
Ted says it was just what he needed. “In the Philippines, our CVs are long and detailed and include photos and a lot of personal information. Mine was definitely too wordy. English for Job Seekers taught me about customising each job application, and about the preparation before an interview.”
English for Job Seekers participants spend a total of 48 hours on the programme, learning such things as how to approach employers, prepare for interviews, develop professional networking skills and tailor CVs. “It’s like a very long orientation,” Ted says.
He followed up English for Job Seekers with the Migrant Employment Solutions (MES) programme which helped him secure the job at Clay Bricks. MES is run by Hamilton Multicultural Services Trust, which collaborates with English Language Partners to support individuals into work. “Before English for Job Seekers I was getting so frustrated, and without it I wouldn’t have been able to get the job.”
Eric is pleased with the way Ted has slotted into the business, coming on board not long after the factory had undergone a substantial upgrade, including a new building, new kiln and dryer and other working machinery.
“There are so many things that can happen when you’re commissioning a new plant,” says Eric. “So many faults and situations that arise. Ted saw a lot of these faults and he learned quickly. He wasn’t shy about speaking up.”
It wasn’t only the kiln and dryer he had to work on; he needed to understand the workings of ‘Lucy’ as well. Lucy being an AGV (automated guided vehicle) weighing 5,500kg, and used to move huge stacks of bricks. “He also came to grips with adjusting the robot that stacks the bricks onto pallets, and the stretch hood wrapping machine.”
Eric says he’d definitely take on more new migrants if he needed more staff. “I don’t think it would matter whether their English was perfect or not,” Eric says. “Because when you’re troubleshooting, you always go to the machine to be 100 percent certain about what’s happened.”
Ted usually works nightshift, and more recently his wife Aileen has started working full-time at the factory too, at the end of the production line in quality control. Their two young daughters, aged four and nine, are looked after by Ted’s older sister who, incidentally, financed Ted’s education back in the Philippines; Ted being the youngest of 12 children.
Another person inspecting the end product is Angie Leōn Rodrīguez. The former real estate agent from Colombia also completed the English for Job Seekers programme. “My English still needs work,” she says. “I did very basic English at school. It’s sometimes difficult to understand what people are saying but I’ve just got to try. English for Job Seekers was useful for giving me confidence to speak. I’m enjoying the work I do here.”
Eric’s pleased with Angie’s progress and has started to give her more responsibility, encouraging her to learn more about the technical and computing parts of the operation.
“If other employers were looking for staff, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend taking on new migrants.”