Cadetships learn skills on the slopes
Mt Ruapehu offers a lot more opportunity than just a day on the snow.
For locals looking for work, the mountain offers an opportunity for on-the-job skills training.
Each year Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL), which operates both Whakapapa and Tu¯roa ski areas, offers cadetships to up to 20 people across all areas of its business. The 2018 cadetship has just finished.
Run in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development, the cadetship incorporates qualifications from ServiceIQ and training, with activities provided by the Outdoors Pursuit Centre. There is a strong focus on jobseekers in and around
hakune and Raetihi for Tu¯roa ski field, and Taumarunui, National Park and Tu¯rangi for Whakapapa.
The programme was conceived five seasons ago as part of the Ruapehu Wha¯nau Transformation Plan to upskill locals and improve employment prospects. Cadetships have been open to local candidates with a connection to the local area and receiving a Work and Income benefit.
RAL general manager Whakapapa Jono Dean says it’s a privilege for the organisation to be involved in helping grow their local community through the programme.
“Since joining the organisation in June this year, I’ve been overwhelmed by the quality of local candidates who have filled the cadet roles throughout our ski area operations.
“Their engagement with our guests and ability to share the ‘local stories’ has been of significant value to our organisation. The diversity and fresh thinking the cadets have delivered this year has been a true asset and reinforces the value the programme delivers to the overall visitor experience.”
The cadetship involves a classroom component where participants learn about the ski area, customer service and kaitiaki before moving into full-time roles over winter. Previous cadets have returned to supervisor positions.
“The advantage for Ruapehu Alpine Lifts is in really strengthening our connection to our local community. When we’re out holding information evenings in the area we really focus on the range of job opportunities we have in the business,” Jono says. “It’s not all about having to be an amazing skier so you can be a ski instructor. Not everybody realises that. We need people to work in field operations on lifts and roads, we need staff in the rentals department, as well as food and beverage and customer relations.”
Successful cadetship applicants are given a 17-week placement in a front line department, depending on need. Some may switch between departments during the season.
On-the-job skills vary, depending on which part of RAL cadets work in, but the over-riding focus is on customer service. Lift attendants also finish with a lift qualification and food and beverage cadets come out with food safety training.
But it’s not all work and no play. Part of the classroom-based part of the programme includes a ski or snowboard lesson and following that cadets are given the same benefits as other RAL employees, which includes a season pass and free group lessons.
They also get to be out on the snow either in ride breaks or on their days off, depending on the department they work in.
Terry Curran, regional labour market advisor for the Ministry of Social Development says the benefits to the community of the cadetship are huge.
“There are obviously pragmatic reasons to support the cadetship in that it helps get people off the benefit and saves taxpayer money, but the benefits to the community go well beyond.
“It makes a real difference to people’s lives in terms of more intangible things like self-worth, and maybe setting a good example for other family members. And it removes a lot of obstacles for some locals in finding work as it includes things like transport.”
He adds that he’d like to see knowledge of the cadetship grow to other regions and, as new features such as the government backed $25 million gondola come on online see cadets required all year round rather than just over the snow season.
Cadet Paige Jones-Hepi from Tu¯rangi says she applied for the cadetship programme after struggling to find a job for almost six months while on the Job Seeker Benefit through WINZ.
“When my aunt suggested to apply for the cadetship with Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, after hearing about her own experience within the programme I contacted my case manager to apply instantly.
She says it has given her skills, knowledge and experience in customer service, financial budgeting and Ma¯ori culture, which was very useful when tourists would ask about the history of the mountain itself.
“Not only have I gained many skills but also a whole lot of experience which has then opened my eyes to the possibility of a longtime future career in tourism.”
“Customer service is a skill you’ll always need to have no matter the job you’re applying for, employers will always look for potential employees that have great customerfocused skills and experience. Due to the cadetship programme I gained these skills and have already found myself another job for the summer at a waterpark.
Paige says she’s already suggested a cadetship to friends.
“I highly recommend this programme to anyone who is struggling to find a job or looking to gain useful skills and experience for future careers.”
The Tu¯roa RAL cadet team enjoy some sledding. From left: Marie Wairepo, Taylor Harris, Stacy-Leeah Perkins, Samuel Martin, Liana Biddle.
Paige Jones-Hepi (left) helping with ski boot fittings in the ski rentals department.