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Cheyanne Amai has her eye on the young ones. Not just her own whānau, nieces and nephews who she enjoys a close relationship with, but school leavers and others who have yet to settle into a job.
Cheyanne is in the good position to encourage youth into employment – she’s the new branch manager of Talley’s Westport fish processing factory and started in the factory herself at age 16.
That was 11 years ago and Cheyanne saw her opportunities clearly from her first days on the factory lines. “I was 100% about working my way up through the ranks, even at that age,” she says.
Cheyanne was promoted to supervisor by the time she was 19 and then to the 2IC (second in charge) role. “As soon as I got that I was thinking ‘where to from here?’”
Cheyanne took every training opportunity available and especially rates Talley’s management training. The personalised one-on-one sessions boosted her confidence, so she knew she was ready to take another step up.
Now the branch’s first female manager, Cheyanne has been in the job since May 2022 and is loving it. She wants young people in Westport and elsewhere on the West Coast to know that there are good jobs available. She thinking of how she can reach them while they’re still at school to let them know that there is money to be made and good career prospects if they have the confidence to give it a go.
“When I was that age, we wanted to get into work and make money. We have some school leavers in the factory doing an awesome job now but one of my goals is to bring in more people – especially for the hoki season and I’d love to see local people in these jobs.
Cheyanne is a true West Coaster, growing up in Westport and feeling blessed to have her mother, sister and nieces and nephews in town, close to her, her partner and the children she is step mum to. She finds it easy to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
“It’s beautiful here, with lots of outdoorsy things to do. You can get on your bike, to the beach and there are lots of good walking tracks.”
There’s some good fishing too of course, and a boat is on Cheyanne’s wish list.
It’s a small community and besides being a big employer, Talley’s is a valued sponsor for community events and initiatives – ranging from the opening of the new Kawatiri Coastal Trail to regular support for the local bowling club.
Cheyanne is proud to get involved and doesn’t mind talking to people about her work and Talley’s in her afterhours. When thinking about young people, she’s hopeful they might feel encouraged by the prospect of having an approachable manager they can relate to.
“It is really important to engage with staff and find out what they want and need. It’s about mutual respect – most people have ideas and goals and are happy to talk with you if they trust you.”
Cheyanne earned that trust during the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns when she was 2IC and when people were worried and unsure about the threat of COVID-19, the effects on their work, and about things like vaccination. Talley’s held lots of factory floor meetings and tried to support staff as individuals.
“We bonded, for sure. Our factory staff were essential workers, and we kept the factory going. We didn’t know what was going to happen with COVID-19 and people were fearful for their health and their families health so we kept the communication lines open and made room for emotions,” Cheyanne says.
COVID-19 is still a worry but now the cost of living is also hitting hard. As a manager Cheyanne sees the opportunity to help ease the pressure in her hometown – by keeping the factory running as efficiently as possible, by seeing opportunities to expand and by encouraging local people into vacancies.
About Talley’s Westport wet fish processing factory
Talley’s Westport fish factory processes tonnes of fresh fish a year – mainly Gurnard, John dory, Groper and Terakihi that are processed for local supermarkets, fish and chip shops and for export (mostly to Australia).
Established in the 1990s, the factory is one of the biggest local employers in Westport. It is located at the port, close to the Buller River.