Once a troubled youth himself, Paul Lavea later found himself drawn to a career as a youth worker.
He says that calling has turned out to be a blessing, allowing him to serve and support his Pacific people.
Today he is the Disability Information Advice Service Co-ordinator with Vaka Tautua, an organisation dedicated to supporting New Zealand’s Pacific Island community.
He’s worked with young people for over 15 years, spending the past six years focusing on supporting youth with disabilities, and he can now gain a formal qualification through a workplace-based training programme.
Through the support of his new employer, Paul is embarking on a journey to upskill himself through the New Zealand Apprenticeship in Community Facilitation.
“I was advised by our workplace here at Vaka Tautua to do this qualification, because the role I am in requires me to work with our people in the community,” Paul says.
“But it’s also something I want to do for myself personally.”
“I want to better skill myself as well as be a role model to a lot of our people, to show them the importance of gaining a formal qualification.”
As the eldest of a family of eight, Paul says he didn’t have the opportunity to go to university or pursue other forms of formal study after leaving school.
“Being Pacific Islander and the eldest, I was the first to find a job and support my parents,” he says.
“And being the eldest, there was no room for university after school or any form of further education. It was “make sure you find a job”, so I did for four years, then I had enough and took off.”
“But I didn’t really understand the importance of my role in providing for my family and my parents, so I left and came back after exploring the world and finally understood that the real value for our culture and our community is to serve others.”
“I understand the struggle of many of our young people getting into trouble and youth gangs. The missing link was the communication between the families and their children.”
That’s when he started working with young people, to help them understand their roles and the value they can contribute to their Pacific communities.
“I’ve never looked back since. It’s been a blessing. It has its challenges and barriers, but that’s where I am now and I’m enjoying every bit of it.”
For Paul, the Apprenticeship programme, facilitated by Industry Training Organisation (ITO)Careerforce, is the first time he’s done a qualification online. “But computers are the thing for today, so it helps me that I can do it in my spare time,” he says.
“I feel very supported with this qualification with work fully backing me up, and the Careerforce coordinator is always available on speed dial if I’m stuck.”
He says the Apprenticeship will give him the opportunity to gain a formal qualification for the work he loves doing and encourages young people to consider a career serving their communities.
“The personal values you need to do this role is to be able to talk to the people and be comfortable of yourself. You need to be open and be passionate about working with your Pacific brothers and sisters,” he says.
“I’m blessed to be in this position, to serve my community and serve my people.”
Are you interested in a career as a Disability Support Worker? Check out more Careerforce qualifications here.