Pacific workers receive free computer upskilling to help move into higher-paid jobs

Computer technology can stump the best of us, but if you've never had the chance to learn, where do you go to learn how to send an email?

A group of Pacific people are now being given the chance to become computer-literate in the hope they can move to better-paid jobs.

Kilifi Mafileo, who has worked on Sleepyhead's factory floor for 25 years, is now upskilling and learning more about the art of computers.

The 53-year-old works in the quilting department and operates a machine that makes mattress toppers. His pay packet currently supports four children and their education.

"I promised to myself that I have to let my children complete their studies," he says.

While he's comfortable around the factory machines, it's the opposite when it comes to computers.

"I learnt email, that's the thing that I really enjoy," he says. "First time it's a little bit hard but the second time it's easy."

The new Government-funded programme is now giving him and other Pacific employees the chance to upskill.

"Everybody has got to have the same opportunities to grow and that is what this course is helping to provide," says Sleepyhead manufacturing manager Geoff Bale.

Currently, nearly 60 percent of Auckland's Pacific workforce is employed in low-skilled jobs.

"Pacific workers have greater levels of in-work poverty and are paid less on average, so it's really important to be able to give workers skills so they can get better jobs - and it's all about wellbeing at the end of the day," says Auckland Unlimited economic development general manager Pam Ford.

About 90 percent of the employees on the floor at Sleepyhead are Pasifika. Senior managers say for many people there, upskilling is about conquering the fear of the unknown. They also hope that once positions become available, many of those employees will be able to take on new opportunities.

"We try to promote people from the floor up," Bale says.

Pacific Aucklanders will make up about a third of the region's working-age population by 2050. Mafileo believes they shouldn't be scared of change.

"I want to encourage people my age that it's not too late to start," he says.

He says that now he can do it himself, he no longer needs to ask the kids to help.