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"NorthTec is not a second-class option, I always felt like going to a polytechnic meant that I wasn't as successful as the rest of my year group who went off to university. Take it from someone who has been to both, NorthTec was a far better option academically and emotionally."
"Choosing a career is one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. I had many sleepless nights trying to figure it out. After working at an orchid farm for a year after school, I decided I wanted to work with people and so then decided to apply to study a Bachelor of International Tourism Management at AUT. In 2015 I started my first year at university. It would be an understatement to say that it was a shock to the system, my rent was more than my student loan payments, I was living in an unfamiliar city, working part time struggling to achieve Cs. As the year progressed, I became more and more worn out, I took out loans and credit cards to cover my rent and started to dive into a struggle with depression. I felt alone and in over my head. I couldn’t figure out why this was what was advertised as being the right thing to do at school.
"In March of 2016 after doing summer school I decided to move back to Whāngarei to take some time off and try to save to finish my degree. I went back to working at Pak'nSave, feeling embarrassed that I was back doing a low-skill job in order to try and dig myself out of the hole I had dug.
"At the end of the year I signed up to study at NorthTec. I decided that I wanted out of university as it wasn’t for me so I decided to use my knowledge from university to complete the level 3 and 4 tourism certificate, which I completed at the end of 2017.
"Just after I completed my certificate, I was diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. My mental health kept declining until I would no longer leave my room. I spent every day at home as I was ashamed of myself. I felt like a failure. For a year I struggled with my mental health and drug addictions. I put on weight and would struggle to make it to my only commitment which was a weekly meeting with my therapist.
"As I started to improve, I wanted to get back into doing something, but I was petrified of failing at a job, so my therapist actually suggested I study NorthTec’s NZ Certificate of Health and Wellbeing.
"I had no intention of getting into the industry, I just wanted to learn more about the things that I had struggled with and to help me get back into work. Attending an interview was one of the scariest things I could think of and would spend countless days fighting the urge to back out.
"I realised that the majority of the struggles I went through were related to where I was living. Auckland was so expensive, it was unfamiliar and I had no support. NorthTec provided a safe place where I had very little to stress about aside from getting my homework in on time.
"I loved how the Health and Wellbeing programme was structured to really work at everybody's strengths and highlight areas needing improvement. We had a diverse class which meant that many of my classmates had life skills and experiences which were instrumental in helping to develop an understanding of how the theory could be implemented in real life and against our own experiences.
"Throughout the year, part of the assignments were to implement the theory you had learned into your own reflections of your past. It made for some pretty life changing self-discoveries which at the time could be very sobering and confronting. It helped us to look at ourselves in an analytical way that resulted in some profound growth.
"I had no idea that we would be looking so much into my own experiences, often when we study we are able to hide away behind academic abilities. The H&W course encourages you to have a strong base in all aspects of your life before you go out and help others. I became much more self-aware and have learned my limits, which will be so important when working in high stress situations. I am confident that I can enter work giving it my all without it taking away from myself at the same time.
"Having classmates from a variety of backgrounds, ages and cultures in my class at NorthTec was very different to my time spent at university. The variety helped so much when it came to understanding working with others, relating the theory to real life situations and learning to work with others successfully. I was often pushed beyond what I thought was my limits emotionally and mentally but the diversity meant that I always had support, advice and aroha enveloped around me. I never felt like I was facing those challenges alone. Everyone worked together to help each other through, whether it was a late night FaceTime call to help someone submit an assignment because they struggled with computers or a hug after a particularly emotional day.
"18 Months ago I was on the disability benefit and struggled to find a reason to get out of bed every day. I was lucky if I could find one positive within my day. Today I am working full-time and using my new knowledge to awhi others who are struggling with similar challenges that I faced. I am contributing positively to my community, my own health and wellbeing and feeling more prepared to meet new challenges. I feel confident in my newfound abilities to know and understand myself in a way that helps me to constantly strengthen and grow. The course material, my tutor and my classmates all contributed to my growth.
"What’s next for me? I guess It would be cheesy to say that I just want to be happy, I really just want to wake up in the morning and smile as I breathe in the air of the new day, content with where my life is at, I want to have a job where I don't feel like I am going to work, rather just another day doing what I love."
“As youth, we all have capability to lift ourselves but a lot of us don’t realise we can do that by studying at...
“I was very clear that I wanted to go to uni and study psychology but I didn’t get uni entrance from school so was looking at the best bridging study to get there when I chanced across this course. I was here for Orientation to support my partner and when I mentioned what I wanted to do to his tutor, she said this health and wellbeing course was perfect.”
“I was very nervous and quiet when I started because I come from right up north and was the youngest in the class, but my advantage was that I was straight out of school so I was used to study and written structure. I’m finding my grades are really good so that has helped my confidence and the course helps with communication and making presentations. It’s a really open environment here and all the students and tutors are genuinely supportive.”
“I’m realising since leaving home that my Dad is my inner voice encouraging me to be my best self. I’m really surprised here how strong the Māori aspect of the course is. I’m Māori but our parents didn’t speak te reo and I had to learn where I came from to give my pepeha here.”
“I can truly further my education by doing this course. I’m keen to upskill and want to absorb as much as possible to better my confidence, communication and motivational interviewing. I’ve already started applying to Auckland University where my sister is studying to be a doctor. My path will be a Bachelor of Arts with a Psychology major and my family’s end goal is to open a clinic up north for our own people. My Mum has her social work degree, my Dad is studying social work, my sister will have her medical degree, and I’ll have psychology.”
“I’m one of the oldest of ten children and all of us know how much need there is for education and up-skilling in our region. We as Māori are a small percentage of the population but the statistics in prison, mental health, and limited education are high. Together we can help with this. As youth, we all have capability to lift ourselves but a lot of us don’t realise we can do that by studying at NorthTec in a supportive system and staying in the area.”
“Since I’ve been here, I amazed at the massive growth in myself and in others on the course. It has transformed my...
“All the odds were against me, so if I can do this degree course anyone can. I’m a foster child brought up in state care, I’m of Māori descent and I was kicked out of school at year 11. I looked down on my social worker and was determined to never be that, but my own experiences has now served to light my passion to help others in similar situations. Because I know how that path feels, I can encourage and work with people at a different level. I’m only 18 so I can really relate to youth.”
“My realisation that I wanted to study and work in social services only happened after I transitioned from state care into a residential home and lived independently. I also realised that because I had left school with nothing, university wasn’t an option for me, so I started my study path at a foundation course at NorthTec in hospitality, then did the certificate in Health and Wellbeing. Over the holiday break I found the courage to commit to doing this degree course. I’m all in it for the youth.”
“I am totally loving learning so many new skills and I feel so supported here as an individual and as a Māori. The wairua of the whole class and tutors supports our mana. We’re all different ages, cultures and gender, and we’re on different paths but we’re all in the same waka and we’re all passionate about being here. Listening and learning from each other gives us different perspectives.”
“Because I dropped out of school, I’m more hands-on and don’t like paperwork but my passion to learn and the support here is helping me focus on study. Because I’m young, another challenge is balancing study with the pull from my friends for social life.”
“Since I’ve been here, I'm amazed at the massive growth in myself and in others on the course. It has transformed my sense of self, and when I get my degree I’m keen to serve as a role model for rangatahi. I did some work with an organisation called VOYCE (Voices of the Young and Care Experienced) as a result of a work placement with Oranga Tamariki in the Health and Well Being course, and I’m now a paid intern for VOYCE and on their National Youth Council.”
“I came from so far down and now I have some exciting options ahead of me. When I finish the degree, my dream is to continue to study with a Master of Social Work and then maybe a degree in clinical psychology. I want to work my way up to parliament and be part of changing the laws that impact the youth of today.”
“To kids out there in care – if you get shut down, look for new doors to open. If you go off track, make a new way forward. How we deal with things shows what we’re made of. Live your own time line, and keep doing you.”
The biggest thing I’ve learnt in this journey is not to doubt your learning abilities. You can do anything you want...
“Someone in social work introduced me to this field and recommended I apply for a scholarship to study. I am a truck driver and digger driver by trade and I didn’t believe I could study at a tertiary level because I left school early. I started with the Mental Health and Addictions course in Kerikeri, and continued on to completed my degree at the Whangarei campus in Social Work.
“I did distance learning at Massey for a while but NorthTec suited me better because it’s face to face learning. I was surprised that I was able to achieve this level of study.
“Our class had students from South Africa, Germany, Switzerland, India, and England as well as sixth generation pakeha, so we are learning many different perspectives. The tutors put me in a tuakana (supporting) role.”
"My family and I have moved from Kaitaia to Whangarei and since the beginning of 2018, I am working as a Caseworker for the Salvation Army Bridge programme. I’ve been clean and sober for 24 years and there is so much need for male role models. I work alongside other clinicians in the Drug and Alcohol field and I cherish the learning I got from NorthTec, as the teaching prepared me for this role. My goals are and have always been to walk along those in the community who struggle with the nature of addiction. I am passionate about this role and see myself here for some time yet."
"My wife has now started the Bachelor of Applied Social Work as well, and I couldn't be happier."
“The biggest thing I’ve learnt in this journey is not to doubt your learning abilities. You can do anything you want to once you remove your own mind blocks.”
Thank you to all the staff of NorthTec (especially those in Kaitaia) who were the biggest inspiration that I had in my years of study, they stood beside my, guided me, taught me, and supported me to where I am today. I still get support from staff today in the role that I have here at work."
It has taken 15 years to turn my life around and six years to complete my degree but my life has now changed forever
“When I walked across that stage at graduation to receive my Degree in Social Services, it was the first time I had graduated at doing anything – ever. I cried tears for the first time in my life.”
Ngametua has lived a hard life. “I left school at intermediate, was on the streets at 11 and then became a ward of the state. I was in and out of boys’ homes and foster care, and when I turned 17, I went to jail. I mostly lived life as a gang member and have had several stints in jail.”
“The last time I was in jail I did the Ko Wai Au (Who Am I) programme and it opened my eyes. It turned on a light bulb for me. I identified that I had been working with youth most of my life - but using my skills in a negative way. The programme also introduced me to education. Since then, it has taken 15 years to turn my life around and six years to complete my degree but my life has now changed forever.”
“After that programme, I started several short NorthTec courses but they had no meaning for me. Then a friend of mine was doing the Mental Health and Addictions course and suggested I jump on board. I loved that paper. I saw how my addictions were affecting me. And when I met the tutor at NorthTec, it turned out she was my social worker when I was 14! She hinted I might make a great social worker myself, so I decided to do it and began my learning journey.”
It was a long journey with some major set-backs including Ngametua struggling with the theory, pulling out of the course when he became homeless, and watching his oldest son go to jail with his second son heading that way too. “Little by little I’d get bits of my life together and I’d finish a paper here and a paper there, thanks to my tutor/ex social worker pushing me. By the time I did my third year, both my boys were working and I felt I was becoming a role model for them.”
“My motivation was that I wanted to change – both for my boys and for myself. I was ready to do the hard mahi.”
“Since getting my degree I have plenty of work and I keep getting more work offers. I now have a passion for working with the Youth Justice team plus I work with men in Tai Tokerau emergency housing. We help them be pro-active in gaining skills and being wiser in their choices. Education is the key – but you have it want it and you have to be ready to do the mahi to change – because it’s hard, and you end up turning away from your previous friends and whangai (adopted) family.”
“Working in social services is inspiring work and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I don’t win them all, but I’ve touched the hearts of men through education. My own education put everything in a different perspective. I realised I was feeding off negative energy, and it was a massive culture shock to turn and use my influence and skills in a positive way that inspired a similar change in others. I never knew I had a teacher locked up in myself.”
“Next I want to go on and do a master’s degree in indigenous cultures, but first I want a rest from study. I’ll stay with the emergency housing work for a while but long term my dream is to be a policy changer and help change our systems that are not working.”
“I’m still basking in that moment of walking across the stage at graduation. It was the proudest moment for me and for my family. I hope my story can open the way for others to face themselves and change their lives. If I can do it…..!”
I got my job at Ngati Hau by working there in my second year placement while still studying. The Girls Group is for...
“Doing my degree was the best decision I’ve ever made and now that I’m working in the field I’m even more driven to make a difference.”
“The stand-outs of the course were both the personal and the professional development from being on that journey. I grew so much as a person and I realised how important networking with colleagues is. It’s also much easier to learn when we apply the theory in our practicum work. When I started studying I wanted to do counselling but later I realized social work offered more scope for initiative, flexibility and creativity – which are my strengths.”
Maggie now works in social work in two roles. She runs the Girls Group for Ngati Hau Health and Social Services in collaboration with Te Ora Hou, and she has a contracted internship to provide cultural support for staff at Whangarei Youth Space. “I got my job at Ngati Hau by working there in my second year placement while still studying. The Girls Group is for girls aged 8-12 who at high risk due to their environmental factors. And I got the job at Youth Space through a Ngati Hau recommendation.”
“The NorthTec degree is directly relevant to my current work – especially as I’ve used the models, frameworks and tools to shape my practice. Looking at social change from community through to national and global levels is also really applicable for the Youth Space work. I use a strength-based approach, working holistically with a focus on whakawhanaungatanga - making meaningful relationships with both clients and colleagues.”
“Since I’ve been working, I’m a lot more confident in my ability, I’m more passionate and driven, and I know that I know my stuff. I want to continue to work with children and young people and I feel happy to have found work that I feel so passionate about.”
“It’s great to be helping strengthen community again. This is the future. I see my work as more about community...
“It’s great to be helping strengthen community again. This is the future. I see my work as more about community development than Social Services,” says Ligi Pakieto-Johnstone, recent Bachelor of Applied Social Services graduate from NorthTec. “Families are taking their power back now so there is not so much agency in their lives. In my new job as co-ordinator at Onerahi Resource Centre I can help enable this.”
After a four year learning journey, Ligi has returned to work amongst the community she grew up in. “Two years of my training was in the Community Development stream at Unitec in Auckland. This introduced me to different models of community and gave me a lens to look further than the individual. Then my Mum was seriously ill so I returned to the north to be near her. I did the next two years of my study up here at NorthTec with the focus on the individual and I finished at the end of 2013.”
During her study, Ligi was juggling her learning with working up to fourteen hours a day. “At some stage I was working seven hours of paid work at Te Puna a Te Aroha (Maori Women’s Refuge) and then seven hours at Te Ora Hou (an organization that works with youth at risk) as part of my practicum. I still wonder how I did it. I know it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my husband and my children. The journey has simply unfolded and I could never have been better prepared than by being on the path I have been on. This includes my Mum’s passing.”
“I was also in the first year of roll-out of the Enquiry Action Learning (EAL) delivery of the NorthTec Social Services degree programme. I’m a kinaesthetic learner so it was perfect for me. We did group-led projects with the lecturer becoming more of a facilitator, and together we chose pathways which worked best for different scenarios. We had to learn to be team players while dealing with the dynamics of personality. We became like family as we learnt together. In those two years, I also developed my networks so my fellow students have now become my colleagues.”
Ligi’s new job came up before she even finished her degree. “This position came up in my final few weeks of study. I applied and got it. I grew up in this community and my family has been part of it for over seventy years, so it offered a great chance to give back. I love the job.”
Ligi especially loves working with people from different walks of life. “There are priceless moments most days and we are all learning every day. The challenge is to avoid taking over or becoming the expert. The people we work with are the experts on their own lives. By us working collaboratively and consultatively, they hold the power in their own lives. They simply need to see some different modelling and get a bit of guidance. The community I work with is my boss and I like that.”
Ligi’s own family has been inspired by her learning. “I am the first woman in our whole whakapapa to study and succeed in tertiary education. My daughter has mimicked my modelling and will graduate as a teacher next year. The possibilities are wide open now to all our next generations.”
“I was born at the change of tide and at the time, my grandmother said to my mother that I therefore had the capacity to change our whakapapa. I feel I have made that change by showing the power of education and knowledge. I feel I’ll be in this job back home in my own community for quite a while and I still volunteer for a day a week at hospice where I utilize the time to take me closer to my Mum.”
Read more about NorthTec's Bachelor of Applied Social Service
“This certificate gave me an added skill for my profession and means I can nurse here specialising in mental health...
Since graduating Krizia has moved into work at Waikato District Health Board with an acute mental health service ward for older persons. She has also completed a Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma and a Master of Nursing at the University of Auckland, graduating in May 2019.
“Studying cognitive behavioural therapy at NorthTec has helped me a lot in terms of my work as a mental health nurse, and with my postgraduate studies. I am more therapeutic and empathetic as a result of this training, and able to establish a good rapport with my clients.”
“I am currently a certified mental health supervisor for mental health nurses where I applied my cognitive behavioural therapy skills, which I learned from Northtec.”
Krizia was a qualified nurse in the Philippines and needed to study to become certified in New Zealand. “I was more into mental health in the Philippines so I decided on this six-month Certificate in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The certificate gave me an added skill for my profession and enabled me to nurse here, and specialise in mental health.”
“We studied the thoughts, emotions, behaviour, and physiological responses of people and how they interlink. We also learn how to handle our own stresses, deal with anxiety and depression, relate to people, and pursue personal and professional development.”
“The basis of the content is that you are your own therapist and we encourage clients to solve their own problems utilizing CBT techniques. I can apply this to my future nursing patients as well as to family and friends.”
“The NorthTec International Committee went that extra mile to help us with anything. Whangarei is peaceful, clean, and close to nature, and the students were really supportive.
“Thank you NorthTec!”
Soraya Te Iringa finished her Degree in Social Services and stepped straight into work that she loves. “I work with...