Naing Naing Tun who fled Myanmar six years ago, says getting a job was key to starting his life in New Zealand, but it was difficult to do on his own.

“I didn’t like sitting around. I like to work and didn’t want to receive the benefit. I also wanted a job so I could support my fiancée to come to New Zealand. I had experience cooking, so I did a culinary course, but then it was hard getting a job, I had no community, contacts or references.”

Red Cross arranged a trial for Naing Naing at Monsoon Poon, a Wellington restaurant. Today, a year later, Naing Naing is happily married and expecting his first child with his wife.

“I am excited to be starting a family here because I miss my family in Myanmar, it will be good to now have family here,” Mr Tun says.

Tony Paine, Secretary General of New Zealand Red Cross, says the Pathways to Employment service is not just of benefit to former refugees, but to employers and the wider community.

“Employers get the opportunity to work with highly motivated and committed people who bring valuable skills and have an incredible strength and resilience.

“Employment is empowering. It gives these new New Zealanders an opportunity to contribute to the community that they now call home.”

Starting on the path to employment is a crucial part of resettling in New Zealand for people from refugee backgrounds. Employment not only improves economic independence - it is also important for social wellbeing and creating a connection to New Zealand society.

But many former refugees face barriers to entering the workforce due to learning a new culture and language and often their skills and qualifications are not recognised or transferable in New Zealand.

“Former refugees are ordinary people who have faced extraordinary conditions. Unfortunately in New Zealand many find themselves struggling to get that crucial first job, or they find themselves stuck in casual jobs which don’t allow them to support their family. This service isn’t just about getting them any work, it is about helping them to find sustainable employment that uses their skills and abilities,” Mr Paine says.

The new service supports former refugees on the ‘pathway’ they take in finding employment, which can include training, volunteering, work experience and part-time work.

In addition to providing one-on-one client support, we work closely with employers and training providers to provide translators to help them work with former refugees.

Pathways to Employment has been successfully piloted in Wellington and Hamilton, which saw 49 people come off unemployment benefits and using Government calculations this has saved Work and Income New Zealand $6 million. *

Pathways to Employment is funded by Work and Income New Zealand and will allow us to work with 450 people per year in Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, greater Wellington and Nelson.

To find out more about Pathways to Employment contact:

Silvia Dancose, 07 850 4664 or in Hamilton

Judi McCallum, 04 805 0308 or in Wellington

Melanie Lilley, 06 351 0793 or in Palmerston North

Claire Nichols, 03 548 4978 or in Nelson

More information on the Pathways to Employment programme can be found here.

*The average time New Zealanders spend on a benefit is between 8 and 11 years, with a cost of $125,000 to $160,000 per person.

Centre for Social Research and Evaluation, Ministry of Social Development (2010). Future Liability. Estimating time on benefit and the associated cost: