Study changes Maxine's life

16:00, Oct 21 2014
Maxine Tupe
AMBASSADOR: Maxine Tupe, 49, is studying towards a degree at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT).

Maxine Tupe did not know how to work a computer two years ago.

Now, the solo mother, part-time cleaner and former factory worker makes PowerPoint presentations, writes academic reports and is more than halfway through a bachelor of Maori language and indigenous studies.

"The young ones taught me," she said.

Tupe, 49, left high school at 17 and went straight into work.

She spent seven years at a Tegel chicken factory before becoming a solo mother to two children on the domestic purposes benefit.

Her children are now 22 and 16.

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Before studying, Tupe was a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) helper, a member of the Woolston Community Association and held other voluntary positions.

She enjoyed the roles but did not think she was capable of studying, let alone getting a degree. She was inspired to give it a shot after taking her daughter to a Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) open day.

Tupe shook with nerves on her first day. She did a foundation course, learnt how to start a laptop "and the rest is history".

She is now a student ambassador and has set up a support network for other mature students. Tupe is among a rising tide of female workers in New Zealand aged over 45 years.

New research says ageing female workers with little or no qualifications are a vulnerable sector in New Zealand's labour force.

Tupe, who is considering working in business or in a Maori guidance role, said studying gave her more career options.

She was also looking forward to earning more.

"I didn't want to be a cleaner all my life," she said.

"I would love to push a pen and use my degree."

A study prepared by economist Dr Paul Callister for the National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women (NACEW) has revealed a "large bulge" of mid-life women workers aged 45-plus moving towards traditional ages of retirement.

However, baby boomers were not following "old trajectories" and many would want to continue working in their 60s, 70s and some into their 80s, Callister said.

NACEW is now calling for more flexible employment arrangements to enable older female workers, who might be struggling, to stay in the workforce longer.

NACEW chairwoman Traci Houpapa said women were over-represented in sectors where conditions such as low pay, physical labour and shift work made employment problematic as workers aged.

"These sectors include aged care and the health sector where career mobility is essential when existing employment is unsustainable due to high physical demand or when long hours of work are required," Houpapa said.

The Press