The need to reform employment assistance in New Zealand


A few months after finishing my Graduate Diploma of Sustainable Management I find myself in a familiar situation: trying to figure out how to wield my latest academic acquisition to the best effect, in a constantly changing job market where sometimes it seems I am always behind the 8-ball.

If we wind the clock back to 2004, I was in a similar situation. I completed my undergraduate degree (Bachelor of Science)in Geography. My G.P.A. was poor – about 3.5, but I was finished in 3.5 years, which for someone who needed assistance with note taking and had a writer for exams was probably not a bad achievement.

The job market had moved a bit in that time. Not necessarily a problem at that point, because I had always intended to go back and try postgraduate study part time at some point, which I started in 2005 and completed in 2006 with a G.P.A. of around 4.5

By the time I finished though the job market was about to experience the effects of the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2009. The market for environmental/planning/natural hazard jobs dried up. A solitary job came up in September 2008, which I went for, lost at the interview stage, but got offered a temporary job anyway.

When I took my job at Environment Canterbury it was a summer student job that was meant to end at the end of February 2009. It lasted until mid April 2011. During that time I discovered the limitations of my office skills – I was fine on Word, but not Excel, my report writing style was substandard.

So, after the quake whilst casting around for a job I enrolled at Vision College to do a Certificate of Business Administration. The course content addressed all of those deficiencies and a few I did not realize I had.

Re-entering the job market was still not any easier. Thousands of jobs had been lost in Christchurch in the quake and the market had changed considerably. The agencies normally tasked with helping people find work or re-enter the work force found and – I suspect still find – themselves grinding against straight-jacketed social welfare law.

For example, between February 2017 and October 2018 I was working on a Graduate Diploma of Sustainable Management. The purpose of gaining this Diploma was three fold:

  1. Renew dormant research skills that I know I have, but which my current employment does not allow the use of
  2. Show employers that I am still capable of learning
  3. Do original research

Now as I seek once more to try to change my employment direction, I realize that this might be my final throw of the academic dice – it is certainly my best. I do not know what my G.P.A. is, but my guess is that a high end B average is probably nearly 7.0.

I wonder what the future holds for those who are being rehabilitated back into the work force. Employers want to know – rightfully – why one has not been working for extended periods of time. However they often take an unnecessarily conservative approach that I think costs them potentially very loyal employees who not only would stick around, but who could be developed into people capable of bigger roles such as team leaders or managers.

Yes some of these people have had a prior criminal history. They might have been on drugs in their youth after leaving school with no qualifications and have committed a crime 25 years ago. But what if they have done the time, renounced the drugs, got a stable partner, gone back to school or some other educational institution and done a trade or a degree?

Well done to them for rebuilding their lives. Do they not deserve a chance? I think they do. Otherwise it is not only they who suffer, but if it leads to a relapse in their condition then the whole of society suffers.

Some people have medical history, like me. Diagnosed at age 8 with severe hypertension. Coupled with hearing impairment, I have struggled for work in the fields of academic endeavour that I studied in. Part of it might be because employers, seeing that I have hypertension possibly suddenly become nervous about hiring someone that they worry might have an accident on their watch. It is kind of interesting that I hold a steady 40 hour a week job in the rental car sector, a sector I knew nothing about and had no connections in. I have now been in it for nearly 5.5 years.

Will this continue to limit me? I hope not. In some respects I have been lucky to have good parental support, a good current employer, but not everyone is like that.

 

 

 

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