Vocational Support Specialist , Vocational Support Service
Vocational Support Specialist, Karen Teo says that her job is not just about finding a person a job. She works with a client to map out a career pathway. This involves finding out what a client would like to do, their skills and preferences, and then assisting them to find a suitable job, or training that will help them achieve their goals.
Karen is part of a four-strong team of Vocational Support Specialists at Tui Ora. The team work specifically with clients who have mental health problems to support them back into the workplace.
This one-on-one service may include CV and covering letter preparation, skills training, driver licence assistance, employer engagement and assistance at a workplace. The team also work with charity Dress for Success, which provide women with clothing appropriate for job interviews and the workplace.
“One of the biggest challenges our clients have in finding work is the stigma attached to mental illness. We work with employers to try and break down the barriers so that our people are given a chance.”
Karen says all clients are different and need to work at their own pace to become work-ready:
“Adapting to a work routine can be difficult. We continue to offer support for up to two months after a client begins a job, offering advice and practical tips to keep them motivated.”
Karen is originally from Singapore but has lived in New Zealand for eight years. She has been a social worker for 12 years and is currently completing a postgraduate diploma in Human Resources.
She says Peter Jackson was the inspiration behind her move to New Zealand. She watched The Lord of the Rings movies and decided that was the country she wanted to live in. Having never visited New Zealand before Karen packed her bags and booked a one-way ticket.
Karen says her favourite thing about her job is meeting new people, empowering them and giving them the confidence to go forward with their lives. Typically, Karen will work with a client for around six months and in that time she really gets to know them.
“We don’t always succeed at the first attempt. Sometimes clients come back several times and it can be a long process. The important thing is that they know we are here and we will continue to support them and work with them until they are ready to enter the workplace.”
Tui Ora provides a vocational support service across Taranaki. Karen’s colleague Jenna Davis-Waite joined the team last year and provides the service in South Taranaki. Jenna is based in the Hawera office but meets clients who need the service across the area.