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Christchurch manager Rebecca (Bella) Aitken is passionate about supporting kids who are struggling. 

What still inspires her every day, after 20 years in the role, is being able to see the change in people as they move forward in their lives.

Bella manages Kiwi Family Trust, a social service agency that is yielding great results for their tamariki and whānau. The Trust runs personal development programmes, youth camps, therapeutic mentoring and life coaching for young people aged ten upwards through to adult.

Apprentice graduate, Bella Aitken from Kiwi Family Trust with Maddie and Devon

I am far more empowered in my role, and confident

Thanks to Careerforce supported on-job training, and the commitment from the Kiwi Family Trust, Bella has now successfully graduated with a New Zealand Apprenticeship in Youth Work.

“I’m now far more empowered in my role and confident within my ability to keep everybody safe and have good practices, which helps strengthen everybody,” says Bella.

“Most of the young people coming through the Trust, are having a difficult time socialising, and may have experienced trauma.

“My role is to support people to grow, including our staff. I have a youth development role, and I also manage 14 staff. Many of our staff come in the door with very low skills, and I’m there to provide the skills that give them confidence to learn and move forward. That’s what inspires me.”

Completing a Diploma in child protection a few years earlier, helped Bella rediscover her own desire for learning.  It was this reintroduction into the world of upskilling and education that made her seek out the Careerforce youth apprenticeship programme.

“I was looking at ways to upskill where I could also manage working a really busy and demanding job,” says Bella. “The idea of doing it at your own pace in the workplace, supported by my own agency and using the experiences I’ve had, was really appealing to me.”

However, during the covid pandemic, everything changed within her work environment and Bella was not able to prioritise her course work during that time. It became difficult to keep the flow going.

Encouragement came when Careerforce Apprenticeship Advisor, Andy Bunn reached out and supported her.

“Andy was so instrumental in my success,” says Bella. “He is the reason I finished it. He was non-judgemental, super supportive, relatable and flexible with what I was doing.”

There was also great internal support, with Bella’s employer helping her with attestations. Having conversations with other trained youth workers in her organisation also helped her better understand the course and to give feedback.

“I learnt a lot. There were a lot of things that I’d been doing really well when I assessed myself, and to be honest, there were things I hadn’t been doing well, and things that I could work on,” says Bella. 

“Careerforce really targets the skills to capture what it is that you know, and highlight areas that you don’t know, in order to strengthen and empower yourself.”

The programme is relevant, manageable and really well supported

Bella says that the outcome for her is that she feels much more confident now.

Careerforce’s Andy Bunn added, “It’s been an absolute pleasure walking alongside Bella navigating our journey together, leading her to achieving the Level 4 Apprenticeship in Youth Work. I really enjoyed the conversations regarding the issues faced by some of the most vulnerable and underserved people/young people in our communities who are supported by Bella and her team.”

“The programme is relevant, manageable, and really well supported,” says Bella. “Covid put a strain on everybody, and changed the way in which we all worked together, but the support, and connection that Careerforce has with its learners is invaluable.  You don’t really understand the true value of that connection, until you’ve experienced it.”

Bella recommends that people who are thinking about doing this type of study, even if they haven’t had any formal structured education before, should not hesitate, and really jump at it.

Although relieved and excited to have completed the apprenticeship, Bella has now enrolled in the New Zealand Diploma in Business (Level 5) Leadership and Management with Careerforce.

Careerforce supported apprenticeships are for experienced workers who can earn while they learn, gain nationally recognised qualifications, support more complex health conditions and handle challenging social issues, resulting in better health outcomes for the New Zealand community. Careerforce is a business division of Te Pūkenga Work Based Learning.

Contact Careerforce for more information about the Apprenticeship in Youth Work