Olive Lawson reports on the recent successful employment seminar for our migrant community

“I’m having trouble with my boss. I don’t know what to do.” 

“Do I have to put my referee’s details on my CV?” 

“Are there any companies in Christchurch that need my skills?” 

“Where do I start? What do I do? All my online job applications have failed.” 

“My English is not good enough to get a job.” 

These are a few of the comments heard at the Employment Seminar at St Barnabas Church on May 29 and June 12. This free seminar targeted newcomers to Aotearoa, New Zealand, Christchurch wide. The aim was to empower and equip them with skills and knowledge thus improving their confidence for job seeking. Finding work can be difficult at any time, but for migrants when English is not their first language and cultural expectations are different, inevitable misunderstandings occur and it can be doubly difficult. 

The English Class, established in 2016, has provided a safe haven for newcomers to New Zealand to meet and learn about New Zealand culture while improving fluency in the English language.  

The 2020 arrival of COVID-19 changed everything. Some migrants are trapped in New Zealand. They want to return to their country of origin but are unable. Problems with visas haunt many and others have lost their jobs. Almost all migrants who are working are employed in jobs far beneath their qualifications and experience: doctors working as gardeners, civil engineers as cleaners and accountants washing dishes. 

The idea of an Employment Seminar arose from these concerns. A grant from the government COVID-19 Resilience Fund was most welcome although all presenters gifted their time for free. The programme, which ran over two days, covered CV writing, Employment Law, Visa Issues, IT in the Workplace, Setting up a Small Business, Dress for Success (women only), Volunteer Canterbury and free careers advice from a Tertiary Education Careers representative. 

I would like to thank Karen Slee, David Beck, Geoff Bevan, Ian Wells and Tony Koller from our church congregations who gave outstanding presentations in their fields of expertise. Rachel Baggaley gave marketing advice, Jo Cotton assisted in many ways, Elizabeth Green and Alison Rudduck helped with the attendees and Corinne Haines, Wendy Kington and Margaret Harper served afternoon teas.  

Perhaps the most impressive presentation came from two migrants who described their struggles, lucky breaks and mindset when job searching. One said his motto was “Do anything 24/7.”  Combining his skills as an electronics engineer and a music tutor, he worked hard to establish a dual career.   

“Use any skills you have.” Trained in the medical profession this migrant worked as a gardener, something he had always enjoyed as a hobby in his homeland, and later got a crucial job on the strength of having a driver’s licence. “Go out and mix with others at every opportunity,” was his advice. This man is a member of St Barnabas Church and described how the friendliness and support of the church helped him immensely. 

St Barnabas was known as “The Encourager.” The sixty plus migrants who attended the seminar were certainly encouraged. We give thanks to God for the opportunity to minister to the wider Christchurch community.