PESS encourages major life changes

posted: 4:00 pm - 9th July 2018
Penoa Masoe

Penoa Masoe (pictured) had to make the call – join a gang, or turn his life around and find a job.

The 27-year-old was steps away from becoming a patched gang member and living a life of addiction-fuelled crime, but fortunately, he decided this was not the path for him. 

Of Samoan descent, Penoa initially met Tania Hansen of In-Work New Zealand Hamilton, (IWNZ) when he was referred to In-Work’s Pacific Employment Support Service (PESS) service in October last year.

For the past seven years, the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) has led the $4.6 million PESS programme, delivered in the Auckland and Hamilton regions.

The programme aims to reduce the number of Pacific young people aged 15-29 who are Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET), and InWork is one of four providers – along with SENZ, Skills Update, Training Institute and Solomon Group - making this happen.

These providers were selected by MPP to motivate, train and match young people to suitable jobs or education, while giving career advice, coaching, and teaching interview skills to help young people succeed in the workforce.

Tania says when Penoa first came to IWNZ, he had been struggling to find work for two years and had identified barriers to finding employment at the time as unstable living arrangements; not having a CV; having visible gang member tattoos; and a lack of transport to get to and from work. 

“Penoa had fled from West Auckland to South Auckland to escape the gang life and he was one step away from becoming a patched member of the Mongrel Mob,” Tania explains.

After completing periodic detention following a charge, Penoa realised it was time to turn his life around.

Penoa moved to Hamilton and met the IWNZ team, and they set about piecing together a working life and CV.

“As Penoa’s literacy was poor and his spoken English language was difficult to understand we felt he needed our assistance to profile him to potential employers to become successful, but he needed to remain drug free.” 

During this time, Penoa’s mum suffered a stroke up in Auckland and he was spending time with her in the hospital when he could, which took its toll on him and he ended up taking drugs again.

Penoa, who did not have a great relationship with his extended family, stayed close to his mum until she passed away a few months later.

At this stage he was instructed by the family to come up with his share of the funeral costs, which led him to seek financial assistance from the very gangs he had fled from. 

His living arrangements had also become unstable and he moved to Whangarei for a time, Tania explains.

“Unfortunately, he stopped communications with us until he moved back down to Hamilton some five months later.

“His family circumstances had changed to include a baby and an ex-girlfriend but his living arrangements were and are still stable.

“He wants to desperately turn his life around for his new daughter and to be a good father by giving up smoking, drinking and the drugs.”

When Penoa reached out again, Tania immediately took him to a community agency that deals with all three addictions, which could set up a care plan for him to keep him on track.

Meanwhile, Tania set about finding him employment.

Feeling confident Penoa was getting back on track Mike and a Recruitment Consultant were able to find Penoa an opportunity working in a meat factory.

“As a reward, we took him to the barbers as he had not had a haircut since we met him in October,” Tania says.

Penoa Masoe receives a haircut at the barber2. CREDIT IWNZ.

“Penoa was doing really well at his job until he became very unwell and ended up in hospital a couple of times, which we put down to his body getting rid of the toxins from alcohol, drugs and smoking.”

Although on sick leave currently, Penoa is so keen on returning to work, he wants to carry on without a medical clearance but would be in breach of health and safety laws if he did so.

“Penoa needs to become 100 percent well again before returning to work, but due to his attitude to work, the Recruitment Consultant is looking for further work for him to return to once his medical expires and he is fit to get back to the workforce,” she says.

Penoa is just one of the success stories to emerge from the PESS programme.

To learn more about it, visit MPP.