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Fe Hopgood leads a team supporting people with disabilities who are striving to be independent and live meaningful lives.

With thirteen years’ experience working in the disability sector, she understands the struggles and discrimination these people can face.

Thanks to a Careerforce supported apprenticeship, and commitment from her employer NZ Community Living, Fe has completed her own challenging journey. Fe had her own hurdles to overcome to recently graduate with an Apprenticeship in Community Facilitation (Disability Support).

Graduate Fe Hopgood

Originally from the Philippines and with English as a second language, she has felt at a disadvantage. Navigating the digital world has also been a battle for the Team Leader, and additionally, she has encountered discrimination and prejudice in her life.

“I decided it was time to challenge myself”

Despite these challenges, Fe exudes a quiet confidence and passion when talking about her work supporting people with disabilities.

Her employer offered her the chance to do an apprenticeship several times, but Fe declined, blaming her age, and the demanding nature of the role.

At 64, she had a change of heart. “It’s not enough just to be hardworking. I decided it was time to challenge myself. I wanted people to respect me for what I know, to treat me equally. I wanted the recognition that the qualification would give me.

Navigating Careerforce’s online learning and assessment platform, Aka Toi, was the first hurdle to jump. Her minimal experience in the digital world meant Fe needed to apply particular dedication and patience. Trying to fully understand what was required from the assessment questions was also a struggle at times.

With support from Careerforce Apprenticeship Advisor Margaret-Anne Cole (Mac), Fe mastered the technology, and was soon confidently using the learning platform and uploading the evidence required for her assessments. Fe describes Mac as her guardian angel, “She’s very patient, understanding, and supportive and when I’m heading in the wrong direction, she‘ll put me on the right track. Being a Filipino, and with English as my second language, there are still some words that I don’t understand.”

NZ Community Living service manager, Sarah Lean, also supported Fe along the journey, by reviewing any evidence provided and was instrumental in helping her finish the programme.

Fe found she enjoyed the flexibility of online learning, “If I’d just finished a shift, and people were sleeping, I could just hop into Aka Toi and do some of the work online.”

“I now manage my time better, take breaks, and delegate to other staff”

Before doing the programme, Fe’s life was ruled by work, including handing out her personal cell number to staff, thinking it was her role to be accessible at all times. “The programme reminded me that working so hard supporting other people, made me neglect myself.  Thanks to my training, I now focus on my own health and wellbeing.

“The job is very demanding, but I have learnt how to manage my time better, take breaks, and to delegate to other staff.”

Fe empowered her own staff to take on more responsibilities, setting up schedules and rosters. She manages a team of ten, supporting them, and delegating to ensure the gaps are filled.

“It’s important to build relationships with my team to connect and engage with them, so they are connecting with me. We have to get to know them, and they get to know us,” says Fe.

Fe encourages others to pursue their own professional development

Careerforce Apprenticeship Advisor, Margaret-Anne Cole with Graduate Fe Hopgood

Now focusing on her own health and wellbeing, Fe spends her spare time doing aqua fit, walking regularly, and more time with her family.

Proud to have now challenged herself to complete the apprenticeship, Fe encourages other people to pursue their own professional development.

“When you’ve been through it yourself, you can point them in the right direction, and it feels good when someone approaches me, and I know the answers.”

“When I finished, I felt really excited. It’s just amazing. Even though I had so many obstacles and hardship, and many questions, I overcame the obstacles. I tell others, it’s not too late, try it.”

For more information about Careerforce supported apprenticeships, please contact Careerforce, a business division of Te Pūkenga.