Council cadet inspires mum back into workforce

Arianna Barrett and Gaylene Kem.

When 25-year-old Arianna Barrett landed a cadetship with Tauranga City Council, she had no idea her enthusiasm would inspire her mother, Gaylene Kem, to apply for a council job herself after 15 years dedicated to raising a family.

Now, having faced the daunting challenge of interviewing after years out of the workforce, Gaylene has secured a full-time position in the Council’s Contact Centre.

“I’d been looking at the job for quite a while, but when Arianna came home from her cadetship so excited about what she’d learnt and the people she’d met, it inspired me to apply,” says Gaylene.

“I felt that nervousness that comes with a new job, but I couldn’t have been put more at ease – the whole team has been welcoming and supportive.”

It’s a feeling Arianna knows well, with the Piki Ake cadetship being her first experience in full-time work.

“I’d just finished university, graduating with a Bachelor of Psychology from the University of Waikato. Due to Covid and other reasons, we didn’t get an internship, so it was quite hard not having those connections and work experience out of uni.

“When I heard about the Piki Ake cadetship programme, I just went for it. I’m so glad I did as it ended up being an awesome opportunity.

“I’m working in the Waste Operations team which has been great for applying transferable skills around behaviour change and kerbside education. Everyone’s been really supportive and I meet regularly with the other cadets to see how we’re all going and share any challenges.”

Piki Ake, which means ‘to ascend’, was launched by Tauranga City Council and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) in 2022 to help reduce local youth unemployment and improve social and economic wellbeing in our communities.

The 12-month programme provides young people with the opportunity to gain valuable skills and experience in fixed-term entry level roles at council. With wrap-around support and training in work and life skills, cadets are empowered to make positive life and career choices that shape their future.

For Gaylene, going back to work after 15 years in the most important role of all – as a mother – has been daunting. But it’s inspired others to give it a go.

“There are other mums in the same situation as me who’ve reached out to say they’re going to start applying for jobs after seeing me get this role.

“It’s scary going back to work after so many years because we haven’t had a foot in the door for so long, we haven’t had any recent experience. Even the interview processes have changed since I’ve done them.”

Fortunately for Gaylene, Arianna was able to help with that last one.

“One of the training sessions we did as part of the cadetship was on how to interview well,” says Arianna. “It was really cool that I could pass that knowledge onto my mum to help her prep for her interview, just like she passed on so much knowledge to me growing up.”

Arianna is part of the third cohort of cadets who joined Tauranga City Council in March 2024, working in roles across council’s Sustainability and Waste, Contact Centre, and Finance teams.

The cadetship is one strand of a broader employment pathways programme being implemented by Council.

Council’s other initiative, Tauranga Moana Futures, focuses on local tertiary students gaining practical experiences in the form of project and team-based work to apply their academic study, growing their local government experience and supporting our local talent pipeline.

The next intake for the Piki Ake cadetship programme will commence in September 2024 in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development.

To learn more about the cadetship programme, visit


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