Natalie Hourigan, 23, with her son, Asher, 6, and younger sister. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

Hayley Gastmeier

Natalie Hourigan has found her passion in education after completing a course which she says has given her life new direction.

The 23-year-old is one of 57 young adults and teens graduating in December from training that sets them up to find employment.

YETE (The Youth Education, Training and Employment Partnership) is an initiative run under REAP Wairarapa that offers youth employability programmes, for job seekers no longer in school and students still in the education system.

Natalie has completed the ‘Youth Employability Programme – Licence to Work’, a core component of her youth placement course, which she says gave her the guidance she needed to identify what path she wanted to take. The programme focuses on developing the essential employability and work-readiness skills needed to get a job and stay in it.

“I went into the course knowing I wanted to help people and that’s about as much as I had set out in my mind.

“Then we did some of our class stuff and I realised I want to be in schools because I want to support the generations under me.

“I feel they need someone to believe in them. I really care about their well-being and I want them to grow into adults who believe in themselves.”

The course involved six weeks of classroom learning, including 10 hours of voluntary work in the community before taking on an 80-hour work experience placement.

Natalie had completed about 40 hours of work experience at Lakeview School before being offered a paid job on a fix-term contract at Masterton Intermediate School.

She also volunteered at the Community Kitchen.

“It was amazing,” she said.

“The course was super beneficial to my life in terms of providing help and support just with everything – the connections and the support that were provided is how I got work experience at Lakeview School and from that I gained employment with MIS.”

Natalie had her son Asher when she was 16 and then completed her studies at the Teen Parent Unit, based at Makoura College.

“As soon as I turned 16, my intention was to drop out of school, but now here I am.”

As a teen mum, Natalie trained as a cook and worked in a rest home kitchen for a year before cooking for the RSA.

From there she became a health care assistant and after that she worked for a year at the Masterton Toy Library, restructuring and building up its membership.

She said she enjoyed these jobs but none of them suited her home life.

“I always wanted to be a cook, but the hours didn’t work with having a child. From there I had to find interim work.”

Natalie said she would not have found her passion without the YETE course.

She is hoping to continue work as a teacher aide in the new year.

“In the long-term I think I’d like to be a teacher.”

Natalie said it was awesome that course participants would be receiving ongoing support for a year after graduating.

She will be working with her mentors, Marie Mackenzie and Kylie Brady, to explore what further study opportunities are available that will fit in with her working lifestyle and hopefully lead her into a career of teaching.

YETE Implementation Lead Josie Whaanga said Natalie had shown promise from the beginning of the course.

“She took up all the opportunities that were presented to her.

“She followed up with guest speakers, introduced herself to employers, and she independently initiated some of her work experience.

“She took advantage of all the things that were on offer to her and that’s why she’s so employable.”