ŌCHT’s employment service has helped 30 tenants into work since it started.
We caught up with a tenant and his new employer to see the results.
Brent Woodhead knows all about hard work and the value of relationships. And he knows giving someone a chance might change a life.
Brent’s been in manufacturing for about 15 years. Over that time, he’s grown a small family-run business in Bromley, Christchurch, into one of the biggest of its kind in New Zealand.
Pegs Unlimited is the country’s largest dedicated manufacturer and wholesale supplier of wooden pegs and garden stakes. It employs 15 people at its factory in Bromley.
As the circular saws cut their angles and workers bundle garden stakes for transport, Brent says much of the company’s success is down to the people around him.
“We’re in a team environment here and how well we do each day depends how each of us works,” Brent says, gesturing toward the work on the factory floor.
“It’s a labour intensive operation and we really rely on each other to get the work done, and to get what we make out to the people who need it.
“Whether we get things right or we get things wrong, it all starts with just one person. So we have to get our people right.”
Employment placement expert Richie Cummins helped find some of the staff needed to keep Brent’s increasingly busy operation firing.
On a visit to Brent’s office, the business development manager at ELE Group says he looks for people who are reliable, keen to learn and who are not afraid of hard work.
“The biggest thing is reliability, Brent’s crew works in pairs so if someone doesn’t turn up then someone else can’t do their job.
“So I have to assess people and make sure they’re someone who’ll fit in, who’ll turn up and get the job done. And Jim has the most difficult road to turning up.”
Jim’s road to employment
Jim** is a recent recruit, brought to Pegs Unlimited by Richie with the help of Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust’s job coach.
Jim lives in an ŌCHT home some distance from Bromley. He takes the 6.15am bus to the city, where he picks up a bike from a friend and rides the rest of the way to work.
He’s there at 7am, half an hour before work starts. But this isn’t the hardest part of the hard road Richie says Jim travels to full time employment.
“I have a few things, I can’t read or write very well, I’m not very good at maths,” Jim says.
“I’ve been to prison, I’ve had addiction problems, I’ve got a past people will judge me on.
“That’s part of my story but I want to show I can be better than what’s happened in the past.
“People have to be allowed to show they can change, if they work hard.”
Jim was in work before the Covid-19 response. With his job gone, and with opportunities hard to come by, he “went into a slump”.
“I thought ‘stuff this, I have to pick myself up and get sorted out’. Having a job means having a life.”
Jim turned up to ŌCHT’s Job Club, part of the ŌCHT Employment Service, to try and get his working life back on track.
Job Club is an informal get-together where job seeking tenants and Tracie share job hunting advice, provide each other support and hear from employment experts.
Jim says the support he got “got me here”.
“Job Club was huge for me, it was really beneficial.
“I got a mean-as CV, I got support and help. I was with the job coach for seven weeks and over that time, she helped me get myself into a job.”
Our job coach helped Jim prepare his covering letter, and to fill in the forms needed to apply for jobs. She also helped in the approach to would-be employers.
They worked hard in a challenging post-lockdown employment market – and it paid off in a rush.
Jim had little time between the chance at a job at Pegs Unlimited and his first day of work. Tracie made sure he was ready with something to eat, bus passes, a grocery voucher and even a drink bottle.
“I really appreciate all the help I got, and the chance I’ve got to work again.
“For me, working means providing for myself, getting a wage to have freedom, and to keep living in a good place, to have a good life.
“It’s not just a job, eh.”
Honesty and hard work
Brent says Jim’s already a valued and hard-working member of his team. He isn’t surprised Jim wants to work his way to forklifts, or even to yard manager.
“When he started he said ‘look I have trouble with three things, reading, writing and maths’.
“He’s honest and he doesn’t hide anything, he says what his struggles are.
“He should be proud of what he is doing. He hasn’t got the tools others do but he is overcoming the challenges.
“He’s adding value to our team. I can see him here for a while.”
Brent and Richie say the ŌCHT Employment Service played a significant part in getting Jim work-ready. The continued contact and support are “invaluable”.
“It’s great that Jim had someone there to support him when he came on board,” Richie says.
“It’s hard work getting back into work, and Tracie helped Jim when it counted.”
Brent says the Employment Service helped Jim get the confident start he needed.
“I believe everyone deserves a chance if they are prepared to step up and work hard.
“Sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised by people you take a chance on. He’s a chance worth taking; he’s doing really good.”
** We’ve changed Jim’s name for privacy reasons
ŌCHT tenants looking for work can sign up to the ŌCHT Employment Service by meeting job coach Lyn and calling 0800 624 456