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The Gatekeeper

If Jimmy hadn't taken a job in Auckland working on the new Wynyard Edge Alliance (WEA) America's Cup site, he would have kept heading down a rather dark pathway.

Despite leaving his wife, daughter and mokopuna behind in Northland to work in Auckland, he has never felt so positive and on the "right track”.

His brother suggested he came down to Auckland from his Kaikohe home, to take on work with contract labour hire company National Personnel Ltd (NPL).

Like his brother, he has ended up proudly working on part of the development of the infrastructure required to support the 36th America’s Cup event being held in Auckland next year.

Little did he (or anybody else know), about eight months after he started his job… everything would come to a grinding halt due to Covid-19.

I spoke to Jimmy not long after he was sent back from Auckland to Northland by his bosses to be with his family. All construction ceased, and Auckland’s Viaduct became a ghost town.

This wasn’t easy for Jimmy who had started to feel a true sense of belonging and purpose. He hadn’t worked for over 13 years, and by his own confession, was heading in the wrong direction.

He had been angry for years (30 to be precise), ever since his two best mates were killed by a drunk driver and he was left physically and mentally scarred. He survived, but that didn't help. In fact, it took him to such a dark and angry place that his mother finally had to intervene. For years, he had been driving past the cemetery where his “bros” were buried, and he would talk to them as he drove by. For Maori, this is not culturally acceptable. His mother told him enough was enough.

Not long after the dressing down by his mother, he went to Auckland and started working at WEA and in his own words, he “started to mellow.”

Jimmy is the Gate Keeper on Gate 4 at the WEA America’s Cup construction site in Hamer Street, near Auckland’s Viaduct.

He is the one who tells people where to go, and how to keep to safe - including the bosses!

His key focus is to get better walkways around the site so that people can keep safe wherever they go.

This issue has been his focus for his presentation at the end of the My Edge course delivered by Education Unlimited (EU). (See attached slide show and Jimmy’s solo verbal presentation).

The purpose of My Edge is to instil respect, understanding and an acknowledgement for the importance of health and safety on site, amongst teams, and to relate it to each participant’s role.

My Edge also builds self-worth and boosts self-esteem and confidence in each and every one of the people who participate.

Seven of the 11 people in this cohort completed the 25-hour training programme and have been awarded the micro credential edubit ‘Write Up, Speak Up, Be Safe’. Training was held at the construction site in two groups once a week from 6.30-9am and included breakfast provided by the Alliance partners. The Level 1, 5 credit edubit formally recognises people’s increased ability to complete critical health and safety documents; speak up with confidence at toolbox meetings and in their own personal worlds; and to understand and talk about the 2015 HSWA (Health and Safety at Work Act).

Both groups have gained in confidence. Jimmy stressed how much more confident he feels to speak up at toolbox meetings. He wants to progress this newfound confidence one day by talking on the marae back home. He has never really been afraid to make himself known, but it’s what he has to say that matters to him now.

His younger brother is one the main kaikōrero (orators) at the marae in Omanaia where Jimmy’s mother’s side of the family come from. Now, Jimmy is preparing to step up and become more involved.

Jimmy’s whanau is very special to him and it has been hard being away for so long. However, at this point of time, Auckland is where the work is. He goes home every third weekend and says that his bosses are pretty much pushing him in to the car at 2pm because he is “starting to get grumpy”!

When I spoke to him, he had been home for a few weeks during to Covid-19 and he was starting to feel a bit grumpy again. But apart from spending quality time with his wife, daughter and mokopuna, when things get too much for him, he heads out to the paddock and “thrashes his truck.”

Jimmy is looking forward to the lock down being lifted and getting back to work. He is also hoping that his graduation will take place because there is a huge sense of pride in completing the My Edge course and gaining the ‘Write Up, Speak Up, Be Safe’ edubit qualification.

He wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the course to others, and if there is an opportunity to enrol on another course, he will definitely “jump on”.

What Jimmy really want to stress to anyone else who has the opportunity to venture into accelerated adult learning in the workplace, is that these programmes (and qualifications) offer so much more than just new tools and skills for the people learning. The knowledge gained can be shared so many times over with whanau, friends and other workmates.

Finally, Jimmy was talking about some of his work mates from the nearby Pacific Islands who participated in the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) version of the course. He was so happy that they had done the course, because now they can better understand what he is saying. According to Jimmy, this is great for everyday conversations, but more importantly for everyone’s safety.

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