Janice’s new skills helped her win a permanent role with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
She came to New Zealand from Samoa in the 1990s to study at Whitireia Polytechnic, in Porirua, graduating with an NZ Diploma in Business. She returned home to work as a finance officer but frequently came back for holidays, as all her siblings were living here.
Then, during a visit in 2015, she was diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, surgery and radiotherapy in New Zealand proved successful, but following her recovery, Janice decided to resign from her job in Samoa and remain in Porirua, close to her family.
“Once I was well again, I began looking for employment, and I went to the Whitireia Learning Centre, to use their computers to write up a CV,” recalls Janice.
“They suggested I start with volunteering, so I went to Volunteer Porirua, who gave me details of four organisations. English Language Partners was the first one I contacted. I had a lovely chat with Jordi Cordwell, the administrator, and thought ‘This is for me!’”
That was in October 2015, and it was the start of a productive internship, which saw Janice doing great work as a resource assistant at the centre and also participating in English Language Partners’ new workplace English course (Work Talk, now English for Job Seekers).
“I volunteered for four hours for two days a week for more than a year,” says Janice. “I was applying for jobs all the time and every time I got a rejection, my colleagues at English Language Partners would encourage me to keep trying. They went out of their way to help me. It was Jacqueline Wilton, centre manager, who suggested I take the Work Talk course.”
The intensive four-week course, for confident users of English, aims to help participants to learn how to approach employers; tailor their CV for specific job applications, prepare and practise for job interviews and develop professional networking skills. Qualified teachers work with students in small classes.
“That was really helpful,” says Janice. “It helped me understand more about New Zealand workplaces. They gave us practical tasks to do, such as answering the phone – with a tutor there to coach us through the process.
“It gave me really practical tools. I learned about the best ways to develop a CV and cover letter, appropriate to specific job applications and to become more confident around networking and communicating with people socially and in interview situations.
“I found the visiting speakers very informative. We had different employers, and someone came in from the city council to talk about the opportunities Porirua could offer. We also had a recruitment agent come in. Overall, it gave me focus and confidence to continue to persevere with job-hunting.
“Following the Work Talk programme, we were asked if we would like to work with mentors, to help us with seeking employment. My mentor, Mary Jones, is a retired school principal. She would come to my home and help me with my application letter and different perspectives. That was really helpful too.”
Jacqueline says Janice quickly became a valued member of the Porirua team.
“Janice’s background is in accounting and business administration and she sorted our resources and library out beautifully. She’s someone who will always go the extra mile to help, including helping out at our stall at the local festival, in freezing rain.”
In January 2017, Jacqueline was able to offer Janice five hours a week paid employment as an administrator, to help with the increasing workload. She took this position and continued to apply for full-time roles.
“I kept writing applications and talking to people because I’d learned on the course that word-of-mouth is very important here. Alongside my work with English Language Partners, I started casual administrative work for Immigration New Zealand (March to September 2017) and that was through a friend who worked there. They said they could offer me four hours a day but the second day I was there I was asked to do more hours.
“I did that for seven months, until October, when I was offered my permanent role at the Business Migration Branch of MBIE. The skills and confidence I’d gained through my internship helped me get this job, through meeting people outside of my family, talking with them and feeling part of a work community. It helped me to demonstrate that I had the skills suitable for this role.
“I am really enjoying it. I work with business applications and investors and do administration. My dream is to be an accounting or finance officer again one day. I spoke to people at a Pacific Island women’s leadership meeting recently and they were very encouraging about the opportunities to move within the Ministry.”
While the English Language Partners Porirua team was sorry to lose Janice as a colleague, Jacqueline says they were delighted to see her achieve her dream of a full-time permanent position.
“All Janice’s perseverance has paid off,” said Jacqueline. “She has achieved so much, and we know she will remain part of the Porirua family.”