Halfway in pursuit of a dream profession

17 March 2023

In just five years, Wellington-based Saw Sar Gar has overcome many barriers to build a new profession for himself and his family.

Saw Sar Gar was forced to leave Myanmar when he was just 20 and spent the next 12 years taking refuge in Malaysia. There, he met his wife Marry, and his daughter, Lavender was born. In 2018 the family was able to move to Aotearoa New Zealand when Lavender was just four years old.

Moving to a new country can be challenging for anyone. You may have to learn a new language, adapt to new surroundings and a new culture, that may be different from anything you have ever known. When Saw Sar and his family arrived, they had limited English and didn’t know anyone. The feeling of isolation was made worse when Saw’s mother passed away and he was unable to travel back to Myanmar to grieve with the rest of his family.

But people with a refugee background such as Saw Sar, who start new lives in Aotearoa New Zealand, work hard to overcome isolation and cultural and language barriers, for a fresh start.

Now, Saw Sar is nearly halfway through a four-year electrical apprenticeship. “I am preparing to complete assessments for this year, so I can work as a certified electrician in the future,” Saw Sar says.

Journey to employment

Former refugee Saw Sar Gar

Former refugee Saw Sar Gar

His journey towards this employment goal started in 2018. First, Saw Sar knew he needed to focus on his language skills, and in one year of study, he obtained his New Zealand Certificate in English language. Next, our Pathways to Employment team supported him get his first job as a kitchen hand. At this point, Saw Sar decided to focus on his career path. With many years’ experience installing air conditioning and refrigeration units in Malaysia, becoming an electrician was a natural choice.

He completed and passed a full-time, year-long Electrical Engineering certificate. Pathways to Employment Advisor, Amanda Bamford commented that when his tutor approached us for a reference, he said Saw Sar was one of the best students he had ever taught. With this qualification in hand, we were able to assist Saw Sar to get an apprenticeship with Seven Electrical in Wellington.

Ben Cathro, Project Manager at Seven Electrical, says apprenticeships involve up to four years of on-the-job, work experience. “Apprentices also need to pass annual theory exams and a final three-hour regulation exam before they can apply to be a registered electrician. Saw Sar has passed all his theory tests to date.”

He says Saw Sar is respectful, polite, follows instructions well, and is a good team player. “I’m confident he’ll be a good electrician.”

Saw Sar is enthusiastic about his new profession and his new life in Aotearoa New Zealand. He says he and Marry are also focusing on getting to know their local community more.

“Lavender is doing well in school. Marry and myself now have more local friends, and we are focused on our future. This is our home,” he says.

Saw Sar’s aim is to buy a house in Wellington for his daughter.

For more information

See how we help people from refugee backgrounds find work.

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