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A new mental health and addiction support qualification is providing a boost to the Southern region’s mental health sector.

Mental health and disability services provider Pact is supporting staff to upskill through a workplace-based training programme, facilitated by Industry Training Organisation (ITO) Careerforce.

Thomas Cardy, Pact’s general manager for mental health services in the Southern region, says training has always been important to the organisation.

“For years, we’ve invested heavily in staff training,” Cardy says. “The Apprenticeship is the latest development in our relationship with Careerforce.”

Pact is supporting nine of its staff members across different regions to complete the New Zealand Apprenticeship in Mental Health and Addiction Support in what Cardy calls a “pilot programme.”

“If our people complete the training and we are happy with it, then we will probably roll this out to the wider workforce,” he says.

Thomas Cardy says Pact is keen to roll the Level 4 Mental Health and Addictions qualification out to its wider workforce.

Cardy says employers need to take a long-term and sector-wide view when considering the benefits of workplace training.

“I think the beauty of doing an apprenticeship with Careerforce is that a person ends up with a qualification so they can go back to the sector. They can prove they have done the work, they know how to do it and they have a qualification to show for it,” he says.

“And for employers, it’s about helping the whole sector develop their skills so we get a better calibre workforce.”

“It takes a bit of effort, but it’s worth it in the long run.”

Careerforce launched its suite of Level 4 Health and Wellbeing Apprenticeships late last year in response to increasing demand from the sector to improve quality of support and service available to New Zealanders.

The 12-18-month workplace-based training programme enables apprentices to develop and demonstrate the skills that they need to work alongside people, family and whānau.

Apprentices learn tools and strategies to support their clients’ autonomy, identify goals, address barriers and achieve aspirations.

Targeted at experienced staff in a range of health, wellbeing, mental health, disability and social services roles, graduates achieve the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Social and Community Services) (Level 4) with strands in Community Facilitation, Community Health Work, Mental Health and Addiction Support, and Social Services.

Cardy says Pact has been working with Careerforce for about eight years, supporting staff to achieve nationally recognised qualifications in mental health and other disability strands.

“We have a very good relationship with Careerforce,” Cardy says.

“The Apprenticeship is one of the newest programmes from Careerforce and we are giving it a crack. And there’s no reason why it won’t work out.”

Cardy, who manages all of Pact’s services from Oamaru to Invercargill and Queenstown, says the organisation’s disability, mental health and addiction support workers empower people with their recovery.

“We help people get out there and learn to live with disability or recover from mental health issues,” he says.

For his team of support workers, Cardy says the training validates the great work they do on a daily basis.

“The qualification means staff have a professional framework to learn from,” he says.

“As employers, facilitating continuous learning and putting a framework around support workers enables them to get a qualification and keep up to date with industry best practice. It’s the right thing to do from a sector perspective.”