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A Pacific Perspective: Careerforce’s 2017 Pasifika Trainee of the Year Christina Taefu shares her thoughts on workplace training challenges and opportunities for New Zealand’s Pacific Communities.

Christina Taefu, Careerforce’s 2017 Pasifika Trainee of the Year

A new research report, Pacific Learner Success in Workplace Settings, shows that a little help from their friends, coupled with a supportive employer and a good relationship with their training facilitator, goes a long way to ensuring successful learning outcomes for Pacific trainees.

Careerforce has formed a consortium with ServiceIQ, Competenz and Skills to run a series of training pilot programmes and present our research and recommendations on what works best for Pacific learners.

We sat down with our Careerforce 2017 Pasifika Trainee of the Year, Christina Taefu, to get her thoughts on the report findings and what more needs to be done to support Pacific people through their workplace training journeys.

A mental health worker with Auckland-based organisation Framework Trust, Christina was one of the first ever graduates from Careerforce’s New Zealand Apprenticeship in Mental Health and Addiction Support, former Miss Samoa and the 2016 Hero of Got a Trade? Got it Made week, which raises awareness of career pathways for young people in the trades and services industries.


1. Can you tell us a bit about your training journey and how you heard about Careerforce and some of the biggest challenges you faced during your training?

I heard about Careerforce and the Mental Health and Addiction Support Apprenticeship through our HR/training manager as they talk about training in our staff team meetings as well as send emails out regularly around training.  Because of the nature of the online training, I didn’t feel as though I had many barriers and I could manage my other commitments.

2. Do you agree Pacific learners need to prioritise learning, work and family – and can you share with me some examples of how you did this throughout your training journey?

As with many other people in training in NZ, Pacific learners need to balance the pressures of learning, work and family. I’m only one Pacific person so it’s unfair for me to speak to the pressures of my community. However, in my own experience I have had to juggle meeting requirements of the course in conjunction with working full-time, renovating a house and planning a wedding.

3. Our research has also shown that many Pacific learners have low confidence and self-perception – they think they’re not smart enough to complete these qualifications because perhaps they had a bad experience at school and/or have English as a second language. Would you agree?

What I have learned from my fiancé Brian Davy who is doing a PhD in the relationship between language, education and identity is that low confidence and self-perception among Pacifica learners often stems from a limited value attributed to our languages and cultural education. These limits are institution and can be removed through engaging with the Pacifica community themselves.

4. You’ve recently been crowned Careerforce’s Pasifika Trainee of the Year (congratulations!) What advice would you give to other Pacific people who want to engage in workplace training?

Don’t be afraid to try, seek support and give it your best. I believe that every Pacifica person can reach their potential.

5.Would you agree that Pacific workers are often unaware of the range of opportunities available for learning, such as workplace-based (ITO-facilitated) learning?

To be honest I do not agree completely, as this hasn’t been my experience with the Pacifica people I work with. A lot of them are incredibly confident, intelligent and take great initiative. Many of them have completed work place training as well as received prestigious scholarships, a lot of them hold degree level qualifications as well. However, I would say that we could extend the awareness of work based learning, such as by talking with the Pacifica community in their own communities and in their own languages. Forums such as the churches, sporting clubs and other community organisations are meeting points for Pacifica people in which we can discuss these issues together. My colleagues are not all the Pacific community and I’m aware that there are other members of the Pacific community who have different needs.

6. Research shows the importance of a supportive employer to create motivating learning environments. Tell us about your experience and what motivates/demotivated you?

I work for Framework Trust, an incredibly supportive organization with bosses who give me a great amount of support. They have invested in me by paying for my training, thus removing any financial barrier, they have allowed me time to study at work, they have shown an interest in my training and have given me ongoing encouragement. I am very fortunate to work where I do.

7. Research also shows small learner support groups work really well for Pacific learners – why do you think this is and did you have a study group when you were doing your Apprenticeship? If you didn’t do you think it would have helped you to have had access to a peer support group? Why/why not?

Well, I was one of the first in my organisation to do the new mental health and addictions apprenticeship so unfortunately, I did most of the work alone, but occasionally sought support from my colleagues who had done a similar qualification in the past.  I do however think that peer support does work really well for Pacific learners and I think it would be good if these groups were facilitated in both English and the trainees’ first languages. For example, a mature student or someone recently settled in New Zealand student with limited language skills who is in the workforce may feel more comfortable in a study group facilitated in their first language.

8. Tell us about your “vision” for Pacific learning success – where would you like to see Pacific learners’ achievement go to? And what do you see as some of the key areas that can be improved to make this a reality?

I would like to see Pacifica learner achievement and success become equal to or greater than the wider population, so that we are no longer recognised as lacking in confidence and self-perception and able to complete qualifications as proficiently as anyone else.

Christina says her partner Brian Davy was a huge support during her apprenticeship.