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Soraya Te Iringa finished her Degree in Social Services and stepped straight into work that she loves. “I work with an agency of social change and it’s really rewarding seeing personal progress and positive outcomes.”
Soraya’s job came directly from the practicum required in her course. “We do practicum in our second and third years, and the NorthTec tutors do a great job at matching us up with work that is a fit for us. I got to know the agency I was working for and built my confidence and other connected agency contacts in that time. I got my job on the strength of that. It was great because it meant I could stay in Whangarei.”
Soraya says that her job is to see that the people she works with have a plan in place, that they are informed, that they know what services are available, and that they know their rights. “We are a community based support service and I love making a difference in the lives of the people I work with. I give them the information they need to make informed choices and if there is a need, we meet it together. I support their choices and I promote change. This empowers them to put their choices into action.”
Soraya started her own journey of change when she enrolled for the social services degree. “I was working fulltime but my job was finishing. I had the skills but not the qualifications and I hadn’t studied since school, therefore it wasn’t easy at NorthTec at first. I was a working Mum with two kids at pre-school, so I did my first year part time and took four years to complete my degree. The accessibility and flexibility of NorthTec made this study possible for me.”
Soraya is thankful for the support of the tutors. “They were so approachable. They wanted us to pass and they gave us the best support. The library was also a big part of that support for me. We learnt how to reference and look for the information we needed specific to the papers we were studying. I majored in social work.”
Now that Soraya is out in the social services work world, she values fundamental reminders that were emphasized in her study. “We learnt the importance of self-care, of supervision (someone to unload to), and of keeping ourselves safe in order to be effective. These are hugely valuable practices when working in this environment. We all keep reminding ourselves to have interests outside of our work, to switch off, and to eat and sleep properly. They are basics – but essential.”
Soraya is keen to continue with the work she does now and is curious as to how her future career will unfold. “Completing my Bachelor in Social Services has given me opportunities and choices that I never would have had. I now have confidence and I have skills. I’m keen to keep on learning and developing, even if my role here changes. I am now able to access anything I want to know, so I can make a difference for myself.”
Soraya says that something she often says to her clients, is a useful reminder to anyone going through change in life. “Believe in yourself. Sometimes you may take a step backward, but then you will step forward again and progress - always. Believe in yourself. Give it a try.”
Read more about NorthTec's Social Services programme
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 now I’m on my way to my degree!”
“I did distance learning at Massey for a while but NorthTec suits me better because it’s face to face learning. I drive the NorthTec van from my home base in Kaitaia to Whangarei every day collecting and delivering other students, so I get either classroom or library study time five days a week. The commuting is a challenge but I’m getting A+ pass-marks by being able to attend like this.”
“I’m really surprised that I am able to achieve this level of study – and that my wife and I are actually now considering moving to Whangarei for a year to support it.”
“Our class has students from South Africa, Germany, Switzerland, India, and England as well as sixth generation pakeha, so we are learning many different perspectives. The tutors have put me in a tuakana (supporting) role.”
“I’m planning to work in drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation in Kaitaia. I’ve been clean and sober for 20 years and there is so much need up there for male role models.”
“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.”
I’m getting the confidence now to carry on with higher levels of learning. As I continue educating and healing myself...
“I believe that because I’ve experienced addiction, I can utilize the talents I’ve been blessed with to support others to move forward.”
“This course is giving me an overview about mental health and addictions that I didn’t have. The different tutors are helping me get a better understanding and context and I’m getting extra help privately.”
“I started doing the course in Whangarei when I was at Women’s Refuge, then Housing New Zealand got a house for me up here so I transferred the credits. I haven’t studied for years so I’m learning to be patient with myself and others and to adjust to being in a classroom environment. We’re all on the same journey here so we get huge support from each other and from the tutors.”
“I’m getting the confidence now to carry on with higher levels of learning. As I continue educating and healing myself, job opportunities are starting to come my way.”
“My first priority is to finish the course and my dream would be to work with and support people in my own community – especially youth.”
I love meeting the people here and sharing ideas. I tend to think in black and white so I like to see and learn...
“A passion for health and well-being has replaced my substance addictions. My progress has come from a pathway of self-discovery that I hope to pass on to others.”
Floyd has learnt the hard way. “I was sent to prison for 10 years for something I did when I was quite young. The steps that led me to prison were fuelled by substance addictions. Inside, I got the punishment but not the help I needed so I dug deep into myself to find a way up. We were offered courses so I did three levels of horticulture and one of auto engineering while I was there.”
“I got work in a saw-mill when I got out and have since finished a Mechanical Engineering Certificate in Maintenance and Diagnostics. My real sense of purpose came when I started some hard-out gym work. The physical training got me hooked on health instead of substances, plus it cleared my body and mind of a lot of toxic stuff.”
“In fitness training you set yourself small goals, and by achieving them you gradually lift your self-esteem. I now come over to Kaikohe from Rawene every day for voluntary training in the gym, with a view to take over the business, and I’m doing the Mental Health and Addictions course at the same time.”
“I love meeting the people here and sharing ideas. I tend to think in black and white so I like to see and learn different ways of looking at things.”
“I have a bigger vision of what I want to create but for now I’m committed to completing the course. I want to open doors for people who may not have those doors open because of circumstances or prejudice. Through the gym, I’ve already been able to help a young guy with some mental health issues win a regional and then national power lifting title. I’m confident I can help because I have the experience – and am now getting the training.”
The best part of the course is having a tutor who supports each of us in every way. We’re all walking this journey...
“Mum is a social worker so I know how much need there is for support workers up here. One of our whānau has also been in and out of prison for years and in supporting him, I see lots of others without support.”
“So I already have the experience and this course will give me the ticket into the industry. I actually did the Mental Health and Addictions course some years ago but I’ve grown since then, and so has my urgency and drive to be able to help.”
“I saw this new course when my partner came to enrol for something else, so I was a last- minute enrolment. I always thought I’d do a bachelor in social services or nursing first but this timing feels right.”
“The best part of the course is having a tutor who supports each of us in every way. We’re all walking this journey together and the course is part of our own healing. Because of what we share, we’ve developed a trust in each other and have connected in a deep way to create our own whānau.”
“Doing the course will give me many more employment options so I can help whoever I come across. I’m already doing that in my everyday life but this adds a professional aspect and helps me with self-care and boundaries.”
“I will become a full-time support worker as soon as I complete the course and I can do my bachelor of social services while I’m working. I’m still expanding and exploring longer-term options but they include supporting the elderly, youth, and maybe prisoners, and giving respite to carers.”
Some aspects of science are a challenge but once I get the breakthrough moment and understand something, I love it...
“I was home schooled in rural Hokianga so I’m loving having a teacher in a classroom and other students for support. When my parents moved to Whangarei I switched to Correspondence School then after six months I had some personal struggles and found it harder to be motivated.”
“I had an epiphany just before turning 18. I realized I was leaving school with next-to-nothing and needed to do something to turn my life around. I contacted NorthTec and asked for advice to stair-step my way into study. We narrowed the choices down to nursing and social services and I chose social services but that needed level 3 Foundation Studies, so this is my start point.”
“Some aspects of science are a challenge but once I get the breakthrough moment and understand something, I love it. We have three cool tutors who all have different styles and I’m learning lots. I’m back into the rhythm of study, I have a goal to keep motivated, and I’ve just bought a car.”
“When I complete this course I’ll go on with more study either in social services or nursing, then my ultimate job would be to help people from unsafe homes and from off the street. I’m keen to help them with their emotional and mental states and to give them skills to be self-empowering. In the meantime I work a weekend job and I’m a volunteer at the local fire brigade.”
I love this type of learning where there is plenty of opportunity for questions, time-out to discuss what presents...
“I was in the Black Sticks, struggling with anxiety to the point where I couldn’t train, and I couldn’t get the support I needed. It became clear to me it was time to leave the Black Sticks.”
“I then got the support I needed, came up here to make a new life, and am doing this course so I can provide support for others. Here we are directed to be an advocate for someone, rather than telling them what to do.”
“I love this type of learning where there is plenty of opportunity for questions, time-out to discuss what presents, and a family feel within our class. We are developing close and real friendships and I am a lot more open. Before I wouldn’t share anything.”
“Some of the legal aspects of the course are hard to learn but are so important and reassuring. I wasn’t aware how the Mental Acts work and was naive about patients’ rights.”
“I hope to do the Bachelor in Social Services after this and then may retrain for the Olympics. My main goal now is to be a voice for children who need support.”
“I would encourage anyone finishing school to do this course. A lot of kids are not on good paths, they don’t know what they want to do and they are vulnerable. This course helps us find out who we are, recognize what we want, and to grow as healthy people.”
There are a whole heap of surprises within this course. We learn about life and we learn about our own development...
“I’ve always been a nurturing, caring person but five years ago I wouldn’t have guessed I’d be studying for my degree in social work – despite my mother suggesting I would be a good social worker.”
“I’ve taken a lot of paths since high school including early childhood teaching, an introduction to nursing, and working in rest homes. One of the clients at one of the rest homes was under mental health care and it was then that I developed a passion for working in mental health.”
“Once I decided that I wanted to be a social worker, I applied for and was accepted for other unis but I have dyslexia and NorthTec was the only place that offered support with that –plus, I’m not a city girl. We come out with the same qualification from here without the exams.”
“The best thing about this course is how small and intimate the class is, plus all the support we get from the tutors and each other. We’re dealing with big issues here so it brings up our own weaknesses and strengths. Dyslexia has been my biggest challenge but I have faced it with all the support here, so it isn’t an issue with my study now.”
“There are a whole heap of surprises within this course. We learn about life and we learn about our own development and in doing so we develop and grow as people. The layers of depth and complexity of being human are ongoing and fascinating.”
“This degree will give me an entry to social work and open the door to practice in the mental health area. I’m already employed at the Alzheimer’s Society so I have a foot in the door there, but after finishing the course I’ll be able to really start my career and put my learning into practice.”
“Later in my career I’d like to do a master’s degree so I can teach mental health and help others with dyslexia. I want to empower others to find their own paths. In the meantime NorthTec is like a second home to me and I would encourage anyone to study here. I’ve found everything I’m looking for here and it has set me on a journey I never thought I’d be capable of.”
Balancing the full-on energy of my baby at home and this study is a challenge but there is a lot of self-directed...
“When the nursing application form asked why I wanted to be a nurse, I realized that I didn’t. I had done level 4 foundation to get into study and prior to that was choosing between social services and art. A lot has been going on for me in recent years including some hard relationships, so that cemented the decision to get into social services and start with the mental health and addictions course.”
“I’m passionate about it. It feels like the right thing to do and the teacher and class are diverse and interesting. The whole point of the course is to help understand differences. This was in focus right in our first module, which was the Treaty of Waitangi. This involved some strong opinions made more pointed by delivery of oral presentations.”
“Balancing the full-on energy of my baby at home and this study is a challenge but there is a lot of self-directed study involved with flexibility of timing and fantastic tutor support.”
“When I finish, the course will either be a foundation for me doing the Bachelor of Social Services, or I can get work as a support worker. Long term I’d love to work with linking kids into foster homes or adoption.”
The course has helped me from a personal level right through to broadening my whole worldview and has given me tools...
“I’m a young father. I had a daughter when I was 15 and was supported by a social worker, and I knew then that I wanted to work with people and support other teen dads.”
“To that end, a few years ago I was one of the founding members of Whangarei Youth Space and I still work there. Being there has been my motivation to step up and do this training to enable me to be of more service and to better benefit my community. Prior to doing this, I did the Mental Health and Addictions Certificate when I was 17 and then worked in the mental health unit at the hospital.”
“I always knew I’d come to NorthTec to do the degree when I could, and I love how much I’m learning. As well as learning about myself, we learn about the way people live in the world and how systems and organisations like WINZ and CYF (now Oranga Tamariki) work. We’ve also learnt about the history of Aotearoa which is really valuable to me and my kids who are Maori. The course has helped me from a personal level right through to broadening my whole worldview and has given me tools for my kete that I can use every day.”
“My biggest challenge is balancing my work commitments, my fulltime study here, and family. I love learning in class, ask lots of questions and get as much work done there as I can. I’m the only male in the class and as students we learn as much from each other as we do from the tutors. We’re on the same journey together, share our stories, and have developed a strong bonding. The tutors really challenge us to think differently and they do it in a supportive way.”
“Getting this degree will open up a lot more career options for me. I want to work at a level that makes change in the Ministry of Social Development. I am planning on doing my placement at Oranga Tamariki for a while and I’m currently work at a NGO (Non-Government Organization, but I want to end up working in social policy somewhere at government level so I can help improve things for my greater community.”
I'm developing even more of a deep passion for helping those people out there who are struggling with addiction and...
“Since studying in this area, I'm developing even more of a deep passion for helping those people out there who are struggling with addiction and mental illnesses. I know first-hand what it's like as I have been a sufferer in the past. For many years I battled alcoholism, addiction and multiple mental illnesses.”
“Now that I am sober, clean and healed of mental illness, this course is giving me a better understanding of what it may be like for others effected by addictions and mental illness. There is a massive need everywhere and I would thoroughly love to help.”
“This course is the beginning of my career journey. I am considering further study in the future and would ultimately love to open up my own Christian ministry drug and alcohol counselling service.”
“I enjoy studying at NorthTec Kaikohe because, although I live 35 kilometres away, I only have to come in to campus one day a week to participate in class learning. The rest of the study is done from home in my own time, making it very flexible and fitting with my family and other commitments.”
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, and she’s also doing postgraduate mental health studies with Auckland University.
“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.”
Krizia was a qualified nurse in the Philippines but needed to study to get 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.”
“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!”