Oliver pictured with Auckland Council team members.

There aren't too many teens that receive a personal note from their Prime Minister, but Oliver Holden in New Zealand can claim that achievement.

Oliver joined Ventia's Auckland Council contract in 2019, working with the Waste and Sanitation team through a placement coordinated by our contract and Selwyn College.

Selwyn College is in Kohimarama and caters for students from Years 9 to 13. Of the 1031 students currently enrolled, a small number have Māori or Pacific heritage as well as groups from a wide variety of other ethnicities.

The school's Totara Learning Centre provides support for students with additional learning needs, until age 21 (an extra three years support).

Over the past three years, the Ventia contract team have provided opportunities for students to gain work experience whilst they complete the final years of their schooling, which goes beyond the 13-year requirement in New Zealand.

Oliver is one of these students.

Training and development

Ventia's Sanitation and Waste Manager Jason Foster played a large role in Oliver's training and development with the team, along with that of fellow students Gabe and Yassin.

"Each Tuesday the school would drop the boys off at 10am and we'd grab our tools and go out into the community and sweep pavements, pick up litter, wash bins, wash BBQ's," Jason says. "We needed to get back by 2pm so the boys could get to school to finish at 3pm." 

Jason notes that for the first few months, Selwyn College also sent out a support teacher to assist, which perhaps was above and beyond going from a warm classroom to the open air!

When this began, Oliver was only 14 and unable to join his schoolmates, but says he enjoyed hearing all about the work they'd been doing and was looking forward to turning 16 when he'd be able to participate.

In the meantime, Jason had increased the training opportunities to two days a week and eventually passed on the training and supervisory duties to Service Delivery Manager Caroline Haku and Contract Coordinator Rama Hammond.

'Since he joined us two years ago, Oliver has thrived', Jason says.

"This year we offered him a job as a temporary summer orderly, as part of the additional crew we take on for seasonal work."

"He was to be supervised by another young orderly, Beth. When he told his mother he had a job working with us, she called us to make sure we were serious." 

Jason says Beth and Oliver spent the summer cleaning Mission Bay and whilst doing so, got talking about politics as Beth is a student at Otago University.

"We talked about Oliver's plans for his future," Beth says. "And how he was going to get a job working for Ventia and he wanted to let Jacinda Ardern know this!"

Recognition for Oliver's efforts

Oliver sent the Prime Minister a letter and was quite excited when she replied.

'It's great to hear you're enjoying the transition program you're doing…Oliver you've set yourself some great goals for the year and I wish you all the very best in achieving them', the Prime Minister's letter said.

Jason notes that much of the supervision of the work experience students was done in addition to their full-time jobs and shows the passion and desire to help the members of the communities in which we work that our people have.

"This is not down to me," Jason insists. "This is all thanks to the dedication of our supervisors and other employees who wanted to give these kids a chance."

Jason says he's hoping to take Oliver on permanently once he's completed his schooling.

"He's the hardest working kid ever," Jason says.

He'd be an asset to any team.


Top image, pictured from left to right: Oliver with Auckland Council team members



Pictured above: Oliver's letter to NZ Prime Minster, Jacinda Ardern and her response.