(L-R): Employment and Training Consultant Maricel Herbert, Instructor Gareth Stephens, Education Tutor Wairangi HekeOur teams have been getting out and about in the community over the past few months, engaging with the public about who we are and breaking down barriers.

Part of that engagement has included attending six NZ careers expos around the country (Wellington, Napier, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Dunedin and Christchurch). The events were held primarily for those of high school age who are considering career paths after they leave school.

To engage a younger audience, the team created a game that gave people different scenarios and tested their ability to balance wellbeing and safety considerations. For example, one of the questions asked people what they would do if they found a wallet with $100 in it at the movies, with someone’s ID. The correct answer was to hand in to the movie staff (rather than track down the person on Facebook themselves or keep the money) – keeping themselves safe while doing the right thing.

“The game was a great success – sometimes it even looked like we needed more ipads,” says Candidate and Engagement Adviser Yuval Zalk-Neale, who worked in partnership with sites and regional recruitment leads on the event.

“Part of the benefit of the game was that they entered their email address before playing, which allowed for a follow up email and the potential to build a longer-term relationship. Participants who played the game also went in the draw to win a prize pack.”

Yuval says that many young people hadn’t heard of Ara Poutama Aotearoa or had misconceptions about what we do as an organisation. Having conversations with people was an opportunity to help them understand our work, our values and to consider if a career with us could be right for them.

“I think it was reassuring for some people to learn that for many of our roles you don’t necessarily need a university degree, and that life experience and skills also mattered.

“The idea was to plant the seed that the Department of Corrections is an organisation that they could go into in the future, with lots of career paths and opportunities.”

Gareth, an instructor who attended a separate careers event in Invercargill, (CareerFest Southland), had similar experiences in engaging with the public.

“The experience was really positive, people were genuinely intrigued about what actually happens inside a prison, and getting to hear it ‘from the horse’s mouth’.

They were also curious about the different scope of roles within Corrections. For the first day I was there with an Education Tutor and an Employment and Training Consultant, then on the second day we had a nurse.”

Gareth says that for him, the priority was on public awareness, as there can be limited knowledge as to what working in a prison is actually like. He says that part of what motivates him to attend these events is the opportunity to break down misconceptions.

“Thinking about when I was younger, if I knew then what I know now – that Corrections was an option - it could have been a path that I’d taken earlier in life.”

Employment and Training Consultant Maricel Herber and Education Tutor Wairangi Heke at CareerFest Southland.
Employment and Training Consultant Maricel Herber and Education Tutor Wairangi Heke at CareerFest Southland.
(L-R): Education Tutor Wairangi Heke and Instructor Gareth Stephens.
(L-R): Education Tutor Wairangi Heke and Instructor Gareth Stephens.