Careerforce apprentice unlocks potential for neurodiverse youth

Morgen Forbes is a shining light for young people with a range of neurodiverse conditions.

The 60-year-old has supported many young people with ADHD, autism and FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder).  

An opportunity to enrol in, and then complete a Careerforce | Te Pūkenga Youth Work apprenticeship with employer Te Ratonga Poumanaaki, meant he could expand his own understanding to better support these young people.

“I passed my driving test, and I got my commercial driver’s licence, but these were the only qualifications that I had ever previously achieved. I am so happy,” says Morgen.

As a Kaimahi Tautoko, Morgen has worked one-on-one with pre-teen children who have neurodiverse conditions. Together with his wife Ana, they are also supporting many of their own whānau and mokopuna with the same conditions and are getting these young people to realise their full potential.

“I am able to break into their way of thinking and create an environment for them to thrive,” says Morgen. 

“It’s an incredible thing to see and to witness.  Like seeing the child that pokes their head up out of the mud, they take a deep breath and are finally free of restrictions.  It’s just absolutely amazing. I just love this work.” 

Morgen started making a difference at home with his own grandniece who was diagnosed with severe FASD.  

The world doesn’t operate the same for people with FASD, according to Morgen. He and his wife supported her continually, daily, even making sure she got up in the morning, ready for school, which she wouldn’t have done on her own. This helped ensure she could operate in the environment, opening up chances and opportunities that she wouldn’t have otherwise had. She became the student representative, graduated, travelled overseas and now runs a retail outlet in Auckland.  

“I don’t see neurodiversity as a weakness or a deficit; I see it as something extra that they have.  So, I create an environment where it is OK to take their time, I open a portal for them. They can still achieve things, go places and be successful.”

Enrolling in the entirely work-based Youth Work apprenticeship with Careerforce was a requirement of his job at Te Ratonga Poumanaaki. 

“I was really nervous – I was 58 at the time and thought I’d have to relearn how to learn.” 

Once he got to grips with the learning, Morgen says it really helped him in his work.

“Sometimes I couldn’t understand what those kids were going through, and I made some mistakes, but the Careerforce programme and the way that it was set out really helped.  It was fantastic.

“I could figure out what was going on with the kids, know how to deal with them and what motivated them, and apply what I’d learnt.”

Careerforce apprentices are assigned a dedicated apprenticeship advisor who provides pastoral care and support throughout the learning. Apprenticeship Advisor Alyssia Paekau was assigned to Morgen, and he described her support as fundamental to his graduation.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it by myself without Alyssia.”  

Morgen also praised the whole Careerforce programme and would recommend it to others. 

Morgen has lots to celebrate now, not only with the achievements of the young people he has supported, but now having successfully graduated with his own apprenticeship.

Keen to keep studying, Morgan says he would like to further study mental health, and youth work, and he is now seeking a new role closer to his Waikato home.

For more information about the Youth Work apprenticeship, please contact Careerforce, a business division of Te Pūkenga.

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