People's Stories | Kim Strawford

Sector

Tourism - i-SITE visitor information

Training Pathway

Completed:

National Certificate in Tourism - Core Skills (Level 3)
National Certificate in Tourism - Visitor Information (Level 4)

Working towards:

National Certificate in Tourism -Business Practice (Level 4)

It’s fantastic to be able to gain qualifications at the same time as working and gaining more experience. It’s also good that the qualifications recognise the experience you already have.

Describing exactly why there is a menacing looking steam train being driven into the sky by a robotic skeleton could be a challenge for some.

For Kim Strawford, Senior Consultant and Retail Coordinator at the Oamaru i-SITE, it’s just one of many queries about the town and region she answers every day.

Kim has been with the i-SITE, which sits at the entrance to the town’s notable Victorian precinct, for nearly three years now, and has recently taken on a more senior role.

She said: “Working at i-SITE is fantastic. I get the opportunity to meet new people all the time, and as every request is different, it’s really important to have a high level of knowledge on all aspects of tourism in the area.

“We basically need to know everything! Not only about the local area, but also the surrounding region, and since we are part of a national network you are expected to know about the rest of New Zealand as well.

“People may be heading anywhere in the country after here, so it’s important to know information about their destination as well.”

In recent times this knowledge has shifted from history into the realms of modern-day sci-fi.

The town is undergoing an edgy renaissance, with the historic grain elevator building now dubbed the ‘Steampunk HQ’. The massive steam engine is the centrepiece of the new museum, dropping $2 into the slot treats you to a sinister light and sound show.

While her *ServiceIQ qualifications don’t specifically cover obscure film genres, meeting the expectations of a variety of visitors is a core part. Kim holds both the National Certificate in Tourism - Core Skills (Level 3) and the National Certificate in Tourism - Visitor Information - Level 4, and is now studying for National Certificate in Tourism - Business Practice (Level 4).

Kim said: “My initial training helped me learn a lot more about New Zealand and the i-SITE network as a whole. The cultural units within Core Skills gave me a good grounding in how to help people from different cultures at the front counter.

“Much of the skill is in greeting people and making a good first impression. People will come in and greet you differently, some people will want instant, efficient service, while others will want more personable service.

“It’s good to know what to expect in a cultural sense, and more importantly how not to offend customers.”

Kim found that undertaking training in the workplace was useful, rather than solely learning in a classroom, as it gave her the opportunity to relate the qualification more directly to her job.

She said: “For instance, I’ve just completed a unit on problem solving using a real life situation. It was really easy to relate to, as I could draw on my own experiences.

“For a while we had a problem with shoplifting, so I was able to complete the assessments with what I’d done to solve the problem, which was a lot easier than trying to think of a solution to an imaginary issue.

“It’s fantastic to be able to gain qualifications at the same time as working and gaining more experience. It’s also good that the qualifications recognise the experience you already have.”

The retailing aspects of working at i-SITE are an increasingly important part of the job for Kim, since taking up her more senior role. She now works with Oamaru i-SITE manager Tania Pacey on ordering suitable stock for the shop, ensuring that besides the usual Kiwi favourites there is some local flavour on the shelves.

This approach has proven successful, with the tourist shoppers being bolstered by local residents popping in for gifts.

The flexibility of the training has worked well for Kim, the quieter winter months give her the opportunity to catch up on her course work, and it’s time well spent for her future career.

She added: “Looking to the future, it would be good to use my qualifications and experience to gain a management position at i-SITE.”

*1 January 2013 the Aviation, Tourism and Travel Training Organisation (ATTTO), the Hospitality Standards Institute (HSI) and Retail Institute (RI) merged, transforming into ServiceIQ - the service-based Industry Training Organisation (ITO) for the aviation, tourism, travel, retail, wholesale and hospitality industries.