The Gatekeeper – Jimmy Rogers

When Jimmy left his whanau and home in Kaikohe to work at the Wynyard Edge Alliance (WEA) on the 36th America’s Cup construction site in Auckland, his life headed in a stronger direction. Despite leaving his wife, daughter and mokopuna behind in Northland, he has never felt so positive and on the right track.

The WEA ‘My Edge’ Core Skills Tuesday group. From left JP (Jason Pakura), Jimmy Rogers, Heather Jeffrey, Ngarangi Gemmell and Ofira (Fila).

Jimmy, who is the Gate Keeper on Gate 4 at WEA’s construction site at Hamer Street, on Auckland’s Wynyard Point, and 10 of his colleagues have just completed the My Edge education course. Seven of them have gained the ‘Write Up, Speak Up, Be Safe’ edubit qualification – a qualification that will help Jimmy with future employment opportunities.

Jimmy says before his brother suggested he came down to Auckland, to work with contract labour hire company National Personnel Ltd (NPL) for WEA, he hadn’t worked for more than 13 years and was going down a negative path.

“I had been angry for 30 years , ever since my two best mates were killed by a drunk driver and I was left physically and mentally scarred.”

Jimmy explains that while he survived, he struggled to deal with the loss. For years, he would drive past the cemetery where his ‘bros’ were buried, and he would talk to them as he drove by. It took him to such a dark and angry place that his mother finally had to intervene and she told him enough was enough.

Not long after the dressing down by his mother, he went to Auckland and started working at WEA and in his own words, he started to mellow.

Like his brother, he has ended up proudly working for WEA. As part of the team, Jimmy says he feels a true sense of belonging and purpose. He is the one who tells people where to go, and how to keep safe – including the bosses.

Little did anyone know, about eight months after he started the job, everything would come to a grinding halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the alert level four restrictions.

Jimmy was sent back to Northland by his bosses to spend the lockdown period with his family. All construction ceased, and Auckland’s Viaduct became a ghost town, until work could start again at level three.

While Jimmy was spending some quality time with his whanau, he was looking forward to the lockdown being lifted and getting back to work. He was also looking forward to his graduation of the My Edge course, which had been postponed.

The purpose of My Edge course, delivered by Education Unlimited (EU), was to instill respect, understanding and an acknowledgement for the importance of health and safety on site, amongst teams, and to relate it to each participant’s role.

Health and safety was a big part of Jimmy’s presentation at the end of the My Edge course. His key focus was to get better walkways around the site so people can keep safe wherever they go.

My Edge also helped build self-worth and boost self-esteem and confidence in each and every one of the people who participated.

Eleven people completed the 25-hour training programme, seven of which have been awarded the micro credential edubit ‘Write Up, Speak Up, Be Safe’. Training was held at the construction site in two groups, once a week from 6.30 to 9am with breakfast provided by the Alliance partners.

The Level 1, 5 credit edubit formally recognises people’s increased ability to complete critical health and safety documents; speak up with confidence at toolbox meetings and in their own personal worlds; and to understand and talk about the Health and Safety at Work Act (2015).

Jimmy stressed how much more confident he feels to speak up at toolbox meetings as a result of the course. He wants to progress this newfound confidence one day by talking on the marae back home. He has never really been afraid to make himself known, but it’s what he has to say that matters to him now.

His younger brother is one of the main kaikōrero (orators) at the marae in Omanaia where Jimmy’s mother’s side of the family come from. Now, Jimmy is preparing to step up and become more involved.

Jimmy’s whanau is very special to him and it has been hard being away for so long. However, at this point in time, Auckland is where the work is. He goes home every third weekend and says that his bosses are pretty much pushing him in to the car at 2pm because he is “starting to get grumpy”.

Jimmy says he feels a huge sense of pride in completing the My Edge course and gaining the ‘Write Up, Speak Up, Be Safe’ edubit qualification. He wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the course to others, and if there is an opportunity to enrol on another course, he will definitely ‘jump on’.

What Jimmy really want to stress to is that these programmes (and qualifications) offer so much more than just new tools and skills for the people learning. The knowledge gained can be shared so many times over with whanau, friends and other workmates.

Some of his Jimmy’s workmates from the Pacific Islands participated in the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) version of the course. Jimmy is stoked that they had done the course, because now they can better understand what he is saying. According to Jimmy, this is great for everyday conversations, and just as importantly, for everyone’s safety.

Written by Nikki Simmons, on behalf of Education Unlimited, with input from Tina Rose.