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Ministry of Education

  • #1 in Public service & utilities
  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Adam Berry

I have been so lucky in my education throughout my life. Without it I would be a completely different person, and seeing such a concrete (sometimes literally) symbol of access to education for someone is genuinely wonderful to me.

What's your job about?

I’m part of the Education Infrastructure Service, a huge organisation which manages all school property. I work in the School Funding Team, as part of a wider team called Operational Practice and Funding, and a much larger group called Infrastructure Delivery; it’s a lot to remember. My role revolves largely around funding, that is how much money goes where. EIS has a huge property portfolio to maintain, one of the biggest in the country, that doesn’t happen for free. A big chunk of my role is processing funding submissions, these come in from our Regional Staff, when schools need funding for something unexpected, or they have a new student who requires changes to the school property to be able to learn effectively and be included in the school community. I also spend a lot of time helping to manage bigger projects, which affect a lot of schools such as the Sustainability Contestable Fund, or the School Investment Programme (look these up, they may affect a school you know). So that’s funding, what on Earth is Operational Practice? The short answer is, it’s everything needed to change an idea into action. We talk to the Policy team, who come up with the ideas, and with the team who will be carrying out those ideas, to help develop training, guidance and documentation needed to get the job done. It’s a role that cannot easily be put into words, but it will lead to you doing and learning things you never thought you would need to know about.

What's your background?

I started my life 11,469 miles (according to google) from where I am typing this, in the North-East of England. I went to two schools in England before moving to Auckland, going to a further 3 schools, and finally coming to Wellington to do two degrees at once. All while teaching drama, improv, swimming, diving and legal rights programmes (not all at once, though that would be impressive). So it’s safe to say I’ve experienced a variety of education. I started at the Ministry in November 2019 as a summer intern. I was placed in Operational Practice & Funding and was lucky enough that there was a position available for me to apply for in the team this year. So I’ve been at the Ministry for 8 months almost to the day, though I think working through lockdown counts as at least double! Having been to and worked with a variety of different schools, I know how important education is and how it can shape a person’s life, and that drives me every day, knowing that everything I do could potentially improve one person’s education makes it absolutely worth it to me. I was lucky enough to become a NZ citizen this year, I am in love with a New Zealander and New Zealand, I am here for good. I hope every day to work to make New Zealand the best place it can be, for the rest of my life.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes, the great thing about being in a team with such a wide scope of work, is that we can, and do, have a wide range of people. I have experience in statistics and environmental science/law, so I pick up a lot of work around reporting and analysis, as well as sustainability. But all someone needs to succeed in a role like mine is problem-solving skills, the ability to work in a team, and a willingness to say “I don’t know much about that, but I can learn”. Beyond that, a head for numbers, and/or communication skills would be a great asset.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

One thing I love is taking something incomprehensible or intangible, whether it’s a dataset, a series of questions, or implementing a complicated policy, and turning it into something useable, or implementable.  Watching something go from a concept to something real is amazing. Seeing learning support projects be completed will always have a special place in my heart too. I have been so lucky in my education throughout my life. Without it I would be a completely different person, and seeing such a concrete (sometimes literally) symbol of access to education for someone is genuinely wonderful to me.

What are the limitations of your job?

A limitation of public service will always be bureaucracy. Though some complain about it, in my role I know it is valid. There are large sums of money being moved around, and limited pools of funding. It is important to ensure it is going to the right places in the right way. However, knowing it’s there for a reason, is not the same as never becoming frustrated with it. There is also a lot of projects where our input is needed and only 13 people in the team. It can be overwhelming at times, even with the amazing support of the team. Sometimes you have to take a deep breath, and force yourself to take a lunch break.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  1. Always ask questions, and always answer them, you learn nothing by sitting there awkwardly.
  2. Take courses you’re interested in, they’re easier than ones you’re not even if people tell you they’re hard.
  3. Apply for every job you’re interested in, instead of wasting effort applying for the one’s you feel like you’re supposed to. It comes across in your application that you don’t really want to work somewhere.