Young Mum takes on Hospitality Traineeship

December 20, 2023
December 19, 2023

Shae Greeks-Rawson is no stranger to the hospitality industry, she’s worked as wait staff and front of house and many other roles throughout her time in the industry.

When Shae was called up by an old colleague and asked to come work for a new restaurant, Marina Woodfired Dining in her hometown of Tutukaka, she jumped on board.

“I was working in [Whangārei] and traveling in every day. I have a young child too and would have to drop them off at school,” explains Shae. “At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to change jobs. But then I thought about it and realised it would work out much better for me.”

Shae had worked for the previous owner of the restaurant, then a pizzeria, and was happy to take on a role once again.

Shae recalls her initial meeting with Brenton Low, co-owner of the business and renowned chef. “The place was still under renovation when I came in to meet with Brenton and discuss his vision for the place. I liked what was being proposed and I ended up working and helping with the renovations until we were ready to open. It was great to get it all set up ourselves.”

“When we opened, I started off doing front-of-house work for the summer. We didn’t have a dedicated chef at that time, so we were all jumping into the kitchen to help where needed with things like prep and getting cabinet food ready. I’ve always liked cooking and baking and I found myself helping more and more in the kitchen. It was a great opportunity to learn from someone like Brenton who has a huge amount of experience to pass on.”

It was Brenton who suggested Shae should take her passion to the next level and get qualified. After chatting with friends and others in the industry Shae and Brenton became aware of Te Tupu Tahi, an initiative created by NorthTec | Te Pūkenga and the Restaurant Association. Te Tupu Tahi works similarly to an apprenticeship, enrolling people currently working in the hospitality industry in courses with NorthTec | Te Pūkenga so they can become qualified in their area of expertise.

Shae was able to complete a 6-month course and gain the NZ Certificate in Cookery (Level 3) while continuing to work and earn money. She would learn in NorthTec | Te Pūkenga kitchens on their Raumanga campus three days a week and apply her learning to her time on shift.

“I’ve worked with NorthTec a lot in the past,” explains Brenton. “I know many of the hospitality tutors well and when they mentioned the programme, I thought it would work well for Shae. It’s definitely made a difference for her, she’s more confident, she’s shown improvement in the kitchen and she’s even more enthusiastic.”

“It was helpful that I could do the whole course in the winter months,” says Shae. “We’re not as busy then so I could reduce my hours and keep up with the course. I do have a child, so I did need to do school drop-offs and pickups, meaning I wasn’t always at course on time. But the tutors are great, they understand all that and are happy to work around it.”

“I did learn a lot, some of it I already knew from working in the industry, but there’s a lot of basics that you don’t necessarily learn when you’re learning on the job. I also learnt recipes and skills that aren’t needed in my current work but that could help me later in my career.”

Brenton’s a support of people getting qualified in the industry. “I think it’s important for people to learn the skills needed for the role. It’s been hard work finding skilled, qualified people to hire. A lot of our workers end up being younger school leavers and often don’t stay long as they leave town to study. We need more skilled qualified people in the industry.”

True to his word, Brenton is currently trying to hire for Marina Woodfired Dinning. Shae will also be picking up more hours now she’s completed the course, taking her back up to full-time.

“It would be great to find some more mature, qualified staff to take on, especially for over the summer. The business is really picking up now, so we are getting busy,” says Brenton.

Te Tupu Tahi was developed this year in a partnership between the Restaurant Association of New Zealand, an industry association that advocates, educates, and supports Aoteroa's hospitality community, and NorthTec | Te Pūkenga. Te Tupu Tahi was developed specifically for Te Tai Tokerau and aims to help people in the hospitality industry gain qualifications in cookery by combining in-work and on-campus practical learning as well as online theory-based work.

Te Tupu Tahi was developed to help bridge the gap between tertiary education and people who need to be in work and earning money, but also want to upskill and gain qualifications in the industry. Trainees will receive support from the Restaurant Association and NorthTec | Te Pūkenga throughout their training and have the option of undertaking the NZ Certificate in Cookery Level 3 or Level 4.

Shae is part of the first cohort of ākonga graduating from Te Tupu Tahi.

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