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If it wasn’t for an apprenticeship, “there was absolutely no easier way I could have upskilled at this stage of my life,” says Emma McIvor, Therapeutic Care Worker for Stand Children’s Services Tu Maia Whanau in Christchurch and mother of three children under 5. She recently completed an Apprenticeship in Social Services with the support of Industry Training Organisation, Careerforce.

Emma’s mother is a registered social worker who is also working at Stand Tu Maia. The Christchurch earthquakes ruined their original building and they are now in a modern building in Hillsborough with stunning views of the city. She shares, “I remember coming here as a kid [with mum]. And as I become a teenager, I got to learn more about what mum did in her role, and why she did it. I knew then I wanted to work with these kids and connect with them. A perfect day at my job is when I am able to connect with a child because then I know I have a relationship I can use to make a positive difference in their lives.”

After leaving school, Emma did an early childhood course. She spent a few years trying to find her feet and eventually landed a job at Stand Children’s services, where she is now a key team member for nearly 7 years.

In her role, Emma supports children to work towards their goals and manage big emotions. “Children come in with all kinds of different goals and normally the children that come here have been through traumatic experiences in their lives that may impact typical social and emotional development. So it’s my job to guide them through their own feelings and help them find healthy ways in how to deal with those feelings and connect with others.”

“The activities and opportunities I create for children may look simple but they are very purposeful and necessary to the children’s social and emotional development and their ability to connect with peers or adults. This may look like a game of tag, participating in arts and crafts activities and other games that promote sharing, taking turns and a sense of belonging within a group setting among other aspects.”

When the opportunity to upskill and get recognised in a role that she loves came knocking, Emma jumped at the opportunity. She explains, “I jumped at it because I knew this is a way to get some experience in putting what I do into theory before I work towards a degree. Once I realised it was an apprenticeship and you do all the learning online and with Kaye (my Apprenticeship Advisor) being a text or a phone call away, I felt confident in my ability to complete the level 4 certificate even while working and having 3 children under 5.”

The Careerforce Apprenticeship in Social Services is a well-resourced and supported programme with each apprentice having a dedicated apprenticeship advisor who provides pastoral care and support as well as marking assessments. The interactive learning resources and assessments are accessible via an online learning platform called Aka Toi.

“Before I knew about Careerforce, I thought I would have to wait until my kids were at least at school.”

Emma’s hard work has paid off, she has received her New Zealand certificate. She shares how she made everything work. “I made myself a plan. So during the week I would set myself goals and chip away at them as much as I could even if it was just 1 sentence a night after I had finished my kids’ night time routine and they were in bed. I tried really hard to not let the apprenticeship take too much time away from my kids on the weekends as I work during the week. This program is perfect for me in the stage of life that I am at.”

She said the best part is having the learning theory work well in practice in her job and can be applied straight away. “In a typical day it would just click that I’ve done the practical aspect of the theory that I was just reading about or I’d just help myself answer that question because I’d just practically completed one of the online questions.”

“The apprenticeship, for me, was being able to put a formal framework to my practice that I put to use every day.”

“I would recommend this apprenticeship to anyone wanting to upskill but find the thought of University or a degree daunting. I would more so recommend this program to parents out there wanting to upskill but feel like they don’t have enough time or energy in a day. I know the struggles, but I also know the sense of achievement and self-improvement upskilling brings and how worth it this is for your own personal growth, separate from being a parent. I did it with 3 kids under 5 while working so it definitely is achievable with dedication and support which is provided.”

With the Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund (TTAF), Careerforce apprenticeship programmes are currently fees free for enrolments through to December 2022. Employers may qualify for the government’s Apprenticeship Boost fund – designed to help employers retain and bring on new apprentices by providing them with up to a maximum of $16,000 for each apprentice they enroll.

Read more about the eligibility for TTAF and Apprenticeship Boost

Careerforce offers several apprenticeship programmes in social services including specialisations in mental health and addiction support, peer support and youth work. All Careerforce apprenticeship programmes lead to a NZQA recognised qualification in health and wellbeing at Level 4.

Get in touch with Careerforce to find out more