Graduate teacher Chloe Young says sheer determination won her a start this week at South Featherston School despite a nationwide lack of jobs in the primary school sector.
Ms Young, 24, started teaching Year 2 to 4 pupils in Room 2 at South Featherston School on Monday. The expat Brit will be relieving at the small rural school for a teacher who was on maternity leave until November and the posting was her first in the sector since graduating from teacher training at Victoria University in 2014.
She had late that same year started a job search that remained fruitless throughout 2015, she said, completing 80 job applications since the start of this year alone in a bid for work at schools no more than a three-hour drive from the capital.
Her interview at South Featherston School was her first since she had begun job hunting, she said.
She had been fortunate as well to have earlier won two seven-week unpaid placements at schools in the capital for her post-graduate diploma. Only a handful of her peers from teachers' college had taken up permanent posts where they had completed their placements.
"For me personally it was really hard. I graduated in 2014 and the interview at South Featherston was the first that I managed to get after applying for over 80 positions this year alone," she said.
She had initially applied for jobs in Wellington, she said, but "when it became obvious it was really tough to get into work just in Wellington, I started applying for jobs that were no more than a three-hour drive from the capital".
"I'm not from New Zealand and my family is not here so I'm most comfortable keeping relatively close to Wellington."
An added pressure for Ms Young was her working visa which will expire late next year.
"It was getting a bit stressful after I'd exhausted most of my options in how much longer I could stay. But the fact I got the job here and will get experience toward my registration is super useful for me to be able to then apply for my next visa.
"If I can find a permanent job for the following year that would be perfect."
Ms Young had remained on an even keel financially while studying at varsity, she said, but the sustained lack of teaching jobs had forced her to work two jobs for more than a year as a secondary school teacher aide and bartending at night.
"There were times that I was upset and a bit disheartened but there was never a time I thought that I'd chosen the wrong career, because it's what I've always wanted to do. It was just a matter of knuckling down and keeping on going really."
Ms Young would not rule out a return to Britain sometime in the future, she said, but "for the moment New Zealand is home, so I'd like to stay here" and she must yet accumulate two documented years of work taking classes with the support of a mentor before she becomes registered to teach.
"So after November, the round of job applications will start all over again, but working now is definitely a foot in the door."
Job insecurity 'devastating' for early-career teachers
A survey of recently graduated primary school teachers has revealed many are struggling to get jobs and are entering the workforce loaded with debt.
The New Zealand Educational Institute surveyed 374 teachers who had graduated within about the past five years, and 51 per cent reported having to reapply for their jobs had a negative impact on their performance.
Of the 311 surveyed who had student loans, one-fifth owed more than $30,000.
NZEI spokeswoman Stephanie Lambourn said there was a shortage of primary school jobs available.
"It's incredibly stressful to have that sort of job insecurity. Even if a teacher gets a contract for a term or two to cover maternity leave or roll expansion, they are constantly having to look ahead and apply for new roles.
"They aren't able to focus on giving their best to their class, and are frequently missing out on the induction and mentoring they are supposed to receive as beginning teachers."
NZEI president Louise Green said the Ministry of Education needed to ensure beginning teachers were getting the support they needed. "It's a devastating waste of their time, passion and money to earn their teaching qualification but not be able to get reliable work at the end of it - not to mention the wasted cost to taxpayers for their training.
"Many of our baby boomer teachers will be retiring in the next few years, and what will happen then? These beginning teachers can't wait around forever and, if they're not getting the experience, induction and mentoring they need, who will fill the gap?"