Alex Barrett had her heart set on moving to Wellington.
She was convinced it was where she would have the best opportunities to further her social sciences career. But then a good role came up in Tauranga, and she had a choice to make.
Growing up in Hamilton, Alex saw Tauranga as a retirement town that young people only went to for the summer holidays. She feared she would be bored and lonely if she moved there. But it was a good role, so she moved to Tauranga in February 2019, promising herself it would be a temporary stepping stone.
Two years later, she has no intention of leaving. As the Future of Work Advisor for Priority One – the economic development agency for Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty – Alex has discovered a vibrant city full of career opportunities and a friendly, beachside community.
“Working here has completely changed my perceptions of Tauranga. There are so many exciting and different things going on behind the scenes to ensure that our city is one of the most high performing and enjoyable cities to live in. Before, I didn’t really see Tauranga as a place for me to be able to further my career. Now I see so many opportunities and I’m excited about having a future here.”
Alex, can you tell us your career story?
After finishing high school in Hamilton, I worked at Texas Lions Summer Camp for young people with physical disabilities in the United States for three years. I was meant to do just one summer and then come home to go to university, but I’m glad I didn’t.
Through that experience, I gained a real passion and excitement for the youth and disability sectors, which I brought home to New Zealand. I worked for the Graeme Dingle Foundation at two primary schools and then for StarJam Charitable Trust – a music charity for young people with disabilities.
That experience shaped who I am today and my passion for working for a brighter future for Aotearoa. After a few years of working, I decided I was ready to study. I went to The University of Waikato in Hamilton, graduating with a Bachelor of Social Science, majoring in Social Policy and Human Development in 2018.
What brought you to Tauranga?
I wanted to get any job in government that could lead me to policy-related work. I was completely set on moving to Wellington. But an opportunity came up to apply for a role as Programme Coordinator with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) working across the Western Bay of Plenty. It was the only job I applied for in Tauranga and I got it! At the time I was worried that I wouldn’t easily meet new friends and that Tauranga was only for retired people. That turned out to be wrong!
10 months later, I made another change. I heard through a friend that Priority One was expanding their team and I decided to apply for their Future of Work Advisor role. I enjoyed my role at MSD but I also felt like I hadn’t quite found my true fit. I was lucky to have two mentors there who gave me the confidence to keep pursuing my passion and to continue to challenge myself. They also reinforced to me that the way we see real change is through community collaboration.
This made Priority One really appealing because I knew they were a future-focused organization that wasn’t afraid to think outside the box. I knew this role would bring interesting and different opportunities to make a difference. I learned a lot working in government and am grateful to have had that opportunity. I am excited to be able to apply some of those learnings in a different environment now.
What does your role as Future of Work Advisor at Priority One involve?
Ensuring that Tauranga Moana is prepared for the next 10, 20, 30 years (and beyond) of work. I’m helping to think through what that will look like for our city and region. I work alongside employers, employees, and our future workforce to create a better understanding of the needs of each group. We want everyone in our community to have access to a highly-skilled job and to have the information they need to make informed decisions about their future career opportunities here.
What do you enjoy about the role?
I get to meet so many people who are doing incredible things in our city. I get to contribute to big-picture thinking and have an influence on ensuring a bright future for our local people. I love being able to sit around tables with people who are all committed to making our city an even better place. I feel privileged to be part of that conversation.
What is your take on the future of work for Tauranga?
It’s really exciting! Our city is expanding and that means more opportunities. The nature of work is changing. These are exciting changes that can make work more engaging, flexible, and motivating. One of the things I am working on is identifying growth sectors and shining a light on them through our Sector Spotlight project. This is still developing, but it’s a great way for professionals who are thinking of moving to Tauranga to connect with innovative companies.
Since joining the team Priority One, what have you discovered about Tauranga that you were unaware of before?
So much! Working here has completely changed my perceptions of Tauranga. There are so many exciting and different things going on behind the scenes to ensure that our city is one of the most high-performing and enjoyable cities to live in. Before, I didn’t really see Tauranga as a place for me to be able to further my career. Now I see so many opportunities and I’m excited about having a future here.
What do you love about working in Tauranga?
I really like working in the CBD. I go down to the waterfront every day to get out of the office, often watching the kids jump off the platform into the harbor while I eat my lunch. I can also ride my bike to work easily from the Mount. It is a beautiful way to start the day.
What do you love about living in Tauranga?
That I get to go to the beach every day! I am more relaxed here. I find it easier to switch off from work because you spend more time in nature. It’s easy to fly to other cities and I can easily drive home to Hamilton to visit my family.
We have lots of good food options here. I love riding my bike down to the mount, walking up or around the mount, and then getting dinner and almost always ice cream! I also joined a hockey team when I first moved here. It was really easy to join a club. We have quite a lot of options here and the people in my team have been really welcoming. We have a new state-of-the-art turf that’s just been built. The facilities here are really awesome for all sports.
What has surprised you about Tauranga?
There are a lot of friendly people that are happy to welcome you into their friend circles. I think people are more relaxed in general. I thought there wouldn’t be a lot to do but the beachside environment gives you so much! I don’t feel bored at all, which was one of my main concerns.
What has moving to Tauranga meant:
For your career? Opportunities!
For your wellbeing? I’m more relaxed. I spend more time outside and I’m really happy.
For your relationships? I’m grateful that I’m still able to stay close to all my amazing friends and family in Hamilton. But equally, I’m meeting really incredible new friends here in Tauranga. It’s a win-win!
Gets You Thinking Doesn’t It?
No one can tell you when you’re ready for a change of lifestyle…but when you are, we’d love to have you in Tauranga! Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TaurangaWelcomesYou