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Vincent Brown has proven that “taking a leap of faith” into the unknown can be just the ticket to landing a dream career. The 27-year-old from Whangārei is working alongside people in his community to support their mental wellbeing, and is excited by where his career is taking him.

Vincent has just completed his Apprenticeship in Mental Health and Addiction Support and is now in a management role with Arataki Ministries, one of Northland’s largest non-government organisations that provides support for people through transitional housing, community support services, health coaching and more.

Abandoning a budding culinary career to support people in the community

Vincent taking a selfie with group of youth

Vincent has supported many youth throughout his career.

However, ten years ago, Vincent had his sights set on being a chef: “I am a passionate cook and have loved to cook ever since I was younger,” he says. It wasn’t until Vincent started working in a restaurant after graduating high school that he changed his mind about a culinary career, and considered what was most important to him.

As an active member and volunteer at Whangārei’s Elim Christian Centre, Vincent says, “During those two years [of working at the restaurant], I was volunteering as a leader at a youth group, which helped me to discover a big passion for young people. I think I realised that being a chef wasn’t as cool as I thought and was given an opportunity to work in a school.”

For the next four years, Vincent worked as a teacher aide at his old high school, supporting a boy who had behavioural and learning difficulties. He excelled in this role; “I managed to work myself out of a job as the boy started to grow and learn, and didn’t require my support anymore.”

With new confidence in himself, Vincent then applied to be a youth consumer advisor at the Northland District Health Board. “I had never taken a massive leap of faith into something completely unknown and scary, but also challenging and exciting.”

This was Vincent’s foot into the mental health and addiction support sector, and where he discovered his passion: “I found myself loving working with people – to see their success but also, when they backslid, to help and support them again.”

Arataki Ministries supported Vincent with his Mental Health and Addiction Support Apprenticeship

When COVID-19 forced an end to the youth programme he was running, Vincent joined the team at Arataki Ministries, where he’s been able to advance his career even further thanks to work-based learning through Careerforce, a division of Te Pūkenga.

Vincent was quickly enrolled into the Level 4 Mental Health and Addiction Support Apprenticeship, and dedicated one workday a week to his studies. With ongoing support from his CEO Pip Rea and Careerforce Apprenticeship Advisor Nicky Liles, Vincent was able to complete his apprenticeship at the end of 2022.

Nicky says, “Pip and the team at Arataki Ministries are one of those workplaces that really gets in behind their apprentices in support of achieving the qualification. Vincent did all the hard work, he showed up, kept momentum and, most importantly, reached out for help from me when needed.”

A new management role and further study in 2023

With the new qualification under his belt, Vincent was promoted to management in a brand new Equity Lead role, where he is developing staff to become more culturally competent, to ensure their services are meeting the needs of Māori.

Arataki Ministries CEO Pip Rea said during Vincent’s time as a support worker, he had great ability to connect with and encourage people on their journeys, and a deep desire to learn and grow.

Pip says, “I saw an opportunity to use Vincent’s skills and inate ability to support others, and our desire to ensure our services and staff were meeting the needs of Māori.

“Vincent is now chairing our Māori advisory group and providing one on one support to staff around their cultural competencies.”

Being of Ngāpuhi and Te Aupōuri descent, Vincent is also learning from local kaumatua at his marae in Parakao to develop his own understanding of te reo Māori.

More study is on the cards for 2023, with Arataki Ministries supporting Vincent to move onto a Bachelor of Health Science, majoring in Mental Health and Addictions. “Once completed, I can then be accredited as a DAPAANZ registered health clinician,” he adds.

“I can then go onto Master’s, which opens up other avenues including social work, nursing or even counselling.

“I do think you have to be a little crazy to do this type of work, as it’s not for everyone but for the people it is for, the sky is the limit as it’s a forever growing field.”

More information

The Mental Health and Addiction Support Apprenticeship enables apprentices to develop and demonstrate the skills they need to work alongside people, family and whānau to support autonomy by using tools and strategies to foster hope, support recovery and build resilience. 

Find out more about the Apprenticeship in Mental Health and Addiction Support.