“There is a big change that happens when you go from being unemployed, especially unemployed for an extended period, to working... I feel like I do have a sense of purpose now.” – Declan
Declan Walding was unemployed for almost two years before completing a training course that led to a new lease of life. Before then, he says, “I had been struck quite hard by the Covid pandemic like everyone else.” Now, the 21-year-old is thriving in a role that is utilising some of his key attributes.
After completing his secondary school education in 2017, Declan was unsure of his next move, and found the burden of decision-making overwhelming, “When I’m thrown an endless number of decisions to make, I get a bit in-over-my-head. I think there is so much emphasis that as soon as you get out of high school, you need to have everything set in place and everything in line. But I was only 17 – I was quite young for my year. I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I’m pretty sure a lot of people my age will have felt the same. There is such emphasis and pressure by society overall to go to Uni, get a degree, then get a job, and I think that it’s not actually for everyone. I think there are other pathways to go.”
He worked for a year to figure things out before starting university in 2019. Planning to become a primary school teacher, he majored in education, “I’ve always enjoyed working with people. I’ve always been the older kid that looked after all the younger kids. I’m an uncle – I’ve got a niece and nephew - so it’s a natural role for me.” Recent volunteer work with the Challenge For Change mentoring programme at Wellington Boys & Girls Institute validated his skills. The programme supports children who may be struggling with relationships, or other life difficulties. He says, “I enjoy just being that support person, because I’ve been given so much amazing support by some great people in my life.”
Declan started university well, but when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the shift to online learning was tough. He explains, “I have difficulty learning in certain ways, and learning from home was not very easy for me. When the learning moved online, we were just thrown into this unfamiliar territory. I struggled.”
Two years of unemployment followed, and unfulfilled potential; “It was quite a struggle not working, and not having Uni because I do like to be busy. It was difficult to not have something to wake up for everyday – to be without a motivation.”
Through Work & Income NZ, Declan was invited to join Capital Training’s Employment Preparation training course for contact centre recruitment. The four-week programme is funded by the Ministry of Social Development, for Work & Income clients. The course equips participants with work-ready skills and supports them into paid employment. Students gain insights into working in a contact centre, and how to prepare for the interview process. Learners explore Customer Service, Conflict Management, Health and Safety, Computer Navigation and much more.
It was an opportunity to gain some new experience. Declan admits he was apprehensive about going into the unknown, “At that time, I felt very unsure of myself and lacked a bit of confidence in my own abilities. But I went into it thinking, ‘I’ll just give it my best. I’ll see what I can do.’ I said yes to the course, and I’m very glad that I did because it was so helpful in the long run and for where I’m at now. I’m grateful that I did say yes”.
At Capital Training, Declan says, “Everyone was really nice and all the staff there were welcoming and very understanding of different situations. I felt like there was no judgment, which was good because sometimes you go into situations thinking you will be judged, and it didn’t really feel like that at Capital Training. You were learning, but it felt easy-going. Everyone on the course was so different and had different stories. It was nice to be able to learn with other people who wanted the same thing and had the same kind of goal.”
Declan picked up some new skills including touch-typing, and the delivery of the programme suited his learning style, “We discussed, we worked in groups, we did tasks ourselves. We would play games or do activities to chill the monotony of taking in information. Those are some things that I really value with learning because I can’t be just sitting there listening for an hour - my brain will turn off.”
His commitment paid off and after completing the programme with Capital Training, Declan landed a role with Ministry of Social Development, as part of the contact centre team for Senior Services.
The contact centre’s induction process is around 12 weeks, “It’s quite intensive training. With any workplace, there is a lot of stuff to process in your mind and understand, so it has been awesome so far. Everyone has been welcoming and supportive and understanding of the position of being “the newbie”. I feel like I am building even more confidence just because of the very good vibes.”
The work is a progression from that which Declan did when he left school; he had spent some time working for a research organisation, cold calling for political surveys, “Now, at MSD, we are receiving the calls. It’s a really nice change, going from cold calling, which was like being a kid at a dance and no one wants to dance with you. Now it’s like being the kid at the dance that everyone wants to dance with!”
The training has taught him strategies for dealing with challenging calls, “When I go and do it, I’m there to do a job, and I put my own feelings aside. I don’t take things personally over the phone. Especially when someone has been waiting for some time to have their call answered. I understand. I’ve been in that position before, so I completely get it. You need a lot of resilience, but you also need a lot of empathy as well.”
Declan has experienced a number of benefits since regaining employment. He explains, “There is a big change that happens when you go from being unemployed – especially unemployed for an extended period – to working. Even just waking up at the right time. When you don’t have a job, you just don’t care about setting a time to be awake. Now I have a reason to set an alarm, and my quality of sleep has definitely improved. It feels good to be more ‘present’. I feel like I do have a sense of purpose now. Even though I have less time, I’m seeing my friends more because I have that motivation. It feels so much better to have time off, rather than all of your time being time off. It feels more meaningful.”
Declan approached the course at Capital Training, and then the job at MSD, with a positive attitude and an open mind, “If you go into things without expectations, you won’t be let down. It’s important to give it your best shot, try your hardest… make an active effort to be there be amongst it. At the end of the day, we’ve all got different skills sets – things we’re good at and things we are not good at. There is no harm in trying new things.” He can recommend the programme to others, as it has been a turning point for him, “I wouldn’t have this job without Capital Training, I really appreciate it. If I hadn’t done the course, I’d still be at home, miserable. I was very unhappy being unemployed. I feel very grateful. It was super important that I did the course and got out of that funk that I was in. I’m very happy that I did it.”