Week's wages thrill after benefit

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2013
Lesina Figota
IAIN MCGREGOR

HARD AT WORK: Lesina Figota, 21, enjoys her job at Fletchers Aluminium after three years on the unemployment benefit.

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A new world opened up before Lesina Figota when she was offered a job in the Christchurch rebuild.

The former long-term beneficiary used to wake up at 1pm most days, help her step-mother clean the house and look after her nieces and nephews.

Now, the 21-year-old's alarm is set for 5.30am every weekday.

For the past three months, Figota has worked as an aluminium packager with Fletcher Building and she said she "loves" being part of the work force.

"When I first got my payslip, I couldn't believe I had so much money. I didn't know what to do with all the money and it felt so weird," she said.

For three years, she received $180 a week on the unemployment benefit, and now she earns more than $500.

"Work has been awesome and I never want to go back on the benefit again," she said.

Figota moved to New Zealand from Samoa in 2006. She applied for the unemployment benefit in 2010 when she couldn't find a job.

"I wanted to work but didn't have any experience and every time I applied for a job, I would be declined," she said.

Disheartened, Figota decided to give up the job hunt and entered the six-week Work and Income Limited Service Volunteer programme, which is a learning camp set up to improve participants' chances of employment.

She hoped to use her new funds to move into her own home and one day join the army.

Her employer, Fletcher Aluminium powdercoat millstone supervisor James Birch, said the beneficiaries that had been hired by the company were "good calibre people who don't have the skills, but are willing to learn".

"There are a lot of people out there who just want to work but simply haven't had the opportunity," he said.

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- The Press

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