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IDEA Services is upskilling its 200+ Service Managers with support from industry training organisation, Careerforce. As New Zealand’s largest provider of services to people with intellectual disabilities and their families, developing managers in their leadership roles is a key goal for the organisation.

A team of Careerforce assessors is supporting cohorts of trainees through the NZ Diploma in Leadership and Management (Level 5) qualification, in a phased roll-out which has seen positive and impressive outcomes.


“The main thing for me now is an increased confidence in my own management and leadership style. I feel more confident in solving problems and making decisions,” says Venessa Dodge.

Venessa Dodge

Hutt Valley Service Manager-Workforce at IDEA Services, Venessa Dodge was one of the first to be put through the Diploma programme. Her team supports adults of all ages with intellectual disabilities to live in their own homes and enjoy life as part of their communities.

Her first role at IDEA Services was meant to be a stepping-stone for Venessa to broaden her Human Resources experiences and skills in the disability sector. She knew she wanted to work for an organisation that did great things for people and the community. Eighteen years on and she is still there, managing the workforce and scheduling a pool of people who work across services.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what role we have in this organisation, whatever you are doing, you are making a difference to someone’s life, and supporting them to achieve their goals in life.”

The Diploma is delivered via on-the-job training, with support from Careerforce. Although Venessa who is passionate about staff learning and development was quick to put up her hand for the training, she acknowledges the work involved.

“You have to be self-motivated to do this type of study, because you have to give a lot of your personal time and really commit fully to get the best out of the Diploma.

“Having gained a Human Resources qualification through university study, this was a different way of learning as it is more experience based and a lot of what you do at work on a day to day basis can be used in the Diploma. I found myself reflecting on day to day tasks, and I could give that, as evidence for the Diploma.

IDEA Services set timelines to help keep trainees on track.

“We had huge support from my manager, with regular catch ups. Those of us doing study would get together and help each other, sometimes at each other’s house, working on a module over coffee. Sometimes the Careerforce assessor would join our meeting and help us figure out a question.”

Upon completing 12-months study, Venessa says it was very satisfying to get to the end.
“The main thing for me now is an increased confidence in my own management and leadership style. I feel more confident in solving problems and making decisions.

“It gives you confidence to handle those conflict situations that you often think are a bit hard and deal with them before they start escalating. It’s made me more proactive in my management style as well.

Venessa encourages others to invest their time in the Diploma. “If you want to develop your management and leadership skills, to improve your ability to support and develop a high performing team, I would definitely recommend this diploma.”

“I needed to step back a bit, gain their trust, listen to what they were saying and take things on board. Confidence is the biggest thing that the course has given me,” says Michelle Phillips

Michelle Phillips

Michelle Phillips is passionate about the disability sector. The Whanganui branch Service Manager has a considerable background in the sector which armed her with valuable experience for her role at IDEA Services.

Michelle oversees three homes and supported living, ensuring there is sufficient staffing, people’s needs are met, staff remain solution focused and that financially things are kept on track.

“I enjoy spending time with people in the homes, getting to know them and hearing their stories. I enjoy hearing how they’re doing, the opportunities they’re having and building relationships between their families and the staff I have. That’s what I enjoy the most,” says Michelle.

Michelle was amongst the first at IDEA Services to enrol in the New Zealand Diploma in Leadership and Management (Level 5) qualification. “The Diploma was something new that came in for managers.”

Michelle had completed various qualifications previously, including a small business management course, and was not fazed by the study. However, being the first to embark on this programme with the organisation did make her a little apprehensive.

“Initially I looked at the modules and thought, I don’t know how I’m going to answer that, but then as I thought about it again, I realised I actually do this,” says Michelle.

“It was a great way for self-reflection in me. It helped me make sure that I was listening and explaining myself well. It’s also about learning to say to people, ’actually tell me what you’ve heard’”.

Initially there were things that Michelle says she lacked confidence in, and she was open and honest about that to her teams.

Michelle says that she had some challenging teams. “I needed to step back a bit, gain their trust, listen to what they were saying and take things on board. Confidence is the biggest thing that the programme has given me.”

“I told my manager that everyone should do it. I’m really pleased the organisation is putting people through it, because it is so beneficial.”


Trish Brosnan, National Manager Learning and Development adds, “IHC has developed its own internal leadership programme, and it has been great to link this to the diploma, so that managers can gain a recognised qualification alongside the practical application of the learning into the workplace.

“It is really pleasing to see and hear that the commitment by IHC to the ongoing development of our managers, is making a difference. The support of Careerforce, and in particular the assessors has been much appreciated and the collaboration between all of the parties has helped make the programme a success.”

Contact Careerforce for more information about the New Zealand Diploma in Leadership and Management (Level 5) programme.

*IDEA Services is a disability service provider of the parent organisation IHC