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Driving towards the future

Driving towards the future
Travis Smillie (left) and Jessica Berntsen are one step closer to gaining their full drivers licence thanks to Youth Services at Tui Ora.

Last Updated: September 2018

A group of New Plymouth students is on their way to becoming fully-fledged drivers thanks to the mentoring support of youth workers at Tui Ora.

Twenty of them sat their written learners test – stage one of gaining a full drivers licence – earlier this year and all passed, with many scoring 100%.

It is thanks to the efforts of Jacki McMillan and Anne Russell who worked through 260 possible questions, did trial tests with the students, taking note of those they were unsure about, transporting them to the tests and bolstering self-confidence.

Funding for the tests came from Youth Services at Tui Ora and the Ministry of Youth Development.

Says Jessica Berntsen, one of the successful students: “Anne clarified ones I wasn’t sure on and make sure I would be closer to 100%.

“It’s also made me feel more confident going into the test, knowing all the questions and knowing that I had run through them with someone.”

The cost of sitting the first test – an online, 35-question test done at the AA office in New Plymouth – was also a barrier, says Jess who had nervous about the financial repercussions of failing and having to resit and pay an additional.

It costs $94 to sit the Learners – and that’s only the first stage of three with the total cost $338 assuming a person doesn’t fail at any stage.

Travis Smillie got only one question wrong and says doing the study and sitting the test in a specific time frame also helped. “You didn’t go into the test knowing maybe there was something I missed, it was all fresh….you could remember it all.” 

He doesn’t have a job and says finding the money to sit the test would have been a struggle.

The students both say they know people who drive either without a licence or on restricted licences – many unable or unwilling to overcome the final hurdle of a full drivers licence.

This is a common scenario says Anne and Jackie: People on restricted licences, who are fined but for a variety of reasons don’t pay, lose their licence and subsequently their job.

Reaching this first step demonstrates to employers a level of motivation and achievement, says Anne.

For some it’s their first big achievement, and the legal status of the licence helps provide official ID for other applications they might make.

Both women remember the look on the faces of the young people when they emerged from the test.

“I remember Jess’ face before she sat the test, she was so worried and anxious.

“But when they pass, the look on their faces – they were so excited. It makes it all worthwhile.”

Jess and Travis are both studying hospitality at Level 2 and continue to be supported by Anne and Jackie meaning the mentoring relationship continues.

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