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“She may be quiet and humble in her approach, but Kayla Dobson has a maturity that belies her age.  She really is the future of support work”, says Andrea McKenzie, Service Coordinator at Pact, Dunedin.

Kayla has successfully graduated with a New Zealand Apprenticeship in Community Facilitation, with support from Industry Training Organisation, Careerforce.  The Community Support Worker sailed through the apprenticeship programme soon after finishing her Level 3 Health and Wellbeing Certificate, says her manager.

The 22-year-old displays the right attitude for support work

Kayla Dobson

In her role, Kayla supports a range of people with intellectual disabilities, contributing to their lives, their wellbeing and supporting their independence. “Although some days can be challenging,” says the 22-year-old, “it’s immensely satisfying and rewarding.”

“From the day that Kayla first started with us, to the Kayla we have today, there has been tremendous personal growth along the way,” adds Andrea. “Kayla is open to learning and understanding her role and her place in the team to bring out the best in the people we support.”

“She puts them first and that is exactly what we seek in a support person – people with the right attitude and Kayla absolutely has it.”

Supporting people with mental illness and intellectual disabilities

Kayla is part of a dedicated team of 450 people at Pact working across the South Island.  Pact’s fascinating history of supporting people goes back to 1877 where it provided support, help and hope to people in Dunedin prisons and ‘lunatic asylums’. Today it provides community support, supported accommodation and day programmes to people recovering from mental illness and people with intellectual disabilities.

Kayla loves her job and looks forward to going to work. “There’s always something to smile about, and it’s great making them smile too. I feel like it gives you a bit of a high.”

“I support a wide range of ages. One of the people I support is just 21, but we’ve also got people in their 90s. We’ve got really independent people and also some people with really high needs.”

“I work with them on their goals, but and I also try to make the days fun for them. I manage groups of four or five people at a time, sometimes playing games, watching movies or going to lunch.

“There are definitely days where I’ve struggled – you just don’t always know what you can expect. You never know what mood, everyone else is going to be in. There are times when incidents happen and it’s a struggle. A lot of the people I look after are older, and they can become unwell. I do go home and worry about them. I can’t really shut that off.”

Kayla embraced the learning from her apprenticeship

Kayla has clearly embraced the learning. “I found the apprenticeship really interesting, sometimes I found it a bit hard, but once I get my head around it, I really enjoyed it.

“I found that I learnt more about the people I support. For example, there was an investigation topic I needed to complete, where I chose ‘dementia’ as the subject.  I really enjoyed that, and I’d really like to do more around that.

“I also learnt a lot about autism, and epilepsy and I found that very useful, to apply in my work.”

Careerforce Apprenticeship Advisor, Sarah Orr supported Kayla with her learning.  “Kayla is one of our younger apprentices, yet throughout the programme, she has put through thoughtful and reflective work.  She is also very highly regarded within the Pact organisation,” says Sarah.

Apprenticeship Advisors like Sarah assist workplaces by providing support, guidance and assessment directly to the apprentices.  They work alongside the apprentice to provide one-on-one pastoral care, coaching and other support to help them achieve their qualification.

Sarah has also delivered groups sessions to the Careerforce apprentices at Pact, which have proven very valuable.

A consideration for more workplace learning in the future

Careerforce apprenticeship programmes are entirely workplace based, and supported via the online Aka Toi learning and assessment platform.  Resources are self-paced, bite sized and can be accessed on desktops, laptops, tablets as well as smart phones.

Kayla says she loved the online learning. “I found it really easy and straightforward. I like the way that it’s set up – It’s easy, I just go in, read the learning resources and complete the assessments.”

Thinking to the future, Kayla says she will definitely look into gaining more qualifications, and may consider specialising in a particular area like dementia.

“For a while I was trying to think what the future holds, but I’m just not really sure what I want to do. I know that I love my job now and I think I’d definitely like to move up the ladder but I’m only 22. I’m happy at the moment!”

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