For West Auckland born and bred, 25-year-old Caleb, the world literally looked like his oyster – at DisneyWorld, until Covid-19 changed all that.
A love for travel from the time he was a child, and his family’s ambitions for him, led to a desire to become a pilot.
“But when it was time to enrol, I had to accept that the course was very expensive, so I decided to take a year off, work at McDonald’s and save some money. I was promoted to supervisor in six months, and Assistant Manager within three years.”
“I realised I was very good at customer service, but I still really wanted to travel.”
Parking his dreams of becoming a pilot, he went instead to the New Zealand School of Tourism and completed a Level 5 New Zealand Diploma in Tourism. While there, he heard about the opportunity to work at DisneyWorld in Florida.
“At the time, I was working at Pak N Save full time and studying full time. I would go to classes from 9am to 1pm, and then work from 2pm to 10pm, five days a week. When I heard about the opportunity to work at DisneyWorld, I grabbed it with both hands.
“I had the time of my life there. It was super fun and I never expected to come back. I was working at the Polynesian Resort and was going to join the Disney Cruise Line next. Then Covid struck!”
As Disney closed its parks, Caleb returned to Auckland, arriving just four days before the country plunged into level four lockdown in March 2020.
He went back to studying, completing a Level 6 Diploma, while once again juggling work at Pak N Save.
“As year end approached, and I finished my diploma, I was looking for work in the area of my studies. I got interviewed for a role at the Radisson Blu in the Maldives on December 2. They offered me the job and wanted me to start on December 10!”
But the pandemic would once again ruin Caleb’s plans. While he was packing his bags and rushing to bid farewell to his family, the Maldivian Government introduced new Covid-related mandates which made it increasingly difficult for foreign workers to secure visas.
“I went from this high of having secured an amazing international job to being unemployed in Auckland.”
An opportunity to work at Auckland Airport as a customer service agent came through, but Caleb realised that perhaps travel wasn’t the sector to be in for the moment.
“That’s when TupuToa came through for me. They helped me secure a cadetship with Yellow, which turned into a longer-term fulltime position.
“I had my interview, and the next thing I had started the job. It all happened really quickly. Everyone was very supportive and there is a great culture.
“I really enjoy the variety my role offers – in terms of customer service work, which is a strength for me, but also as part of Yellow’s relationship with TupuToa, I get to work for TupuToa too.”
Yellow is a principal partner of TupuToa, and has also housed TupuToa within its premises for the last 3 years.
“I’ve been developing new skills in areas like data management, our technology platforms, and looking at how we improve processes. It’s been a great learning experience.”
Caleb also credits the support he receives from his TupuToa navigators.
“Tala and Lewis are always there for me. It has also been good to be part of the TupuToa wananga and make connections with other TupuToa interns and cadets. I’ve also learnt to value my Niuean and Māori heritage more.”