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Studying motivates travel agency during COVID

By UCOL on Tuesday, 08 November 2022

Staff at helloworld travel Palmerston North

Studying at UCOL Te Pūkenga gave the helloworld Travel Palmerston North team a boost while they worked through the disruption of COVID-19.

helloworld Travel Managing Director Kim Dunwell and Travel Professionals Berta Ohlson-Down and Ellise Buckley are finishing up their New Zealand Diploma in Business programme.

Thanks to a scholarship from UCOL Te Pūkenga and the Manawatū Chamber of Commerce, the team studied part-time for two years.

In 2020, UCOL Te Pūkenga and chambers of commerce in Manawatū, Whanganui, Wairarapa offered scholarships to chamber members to help them upskill and recover from the impact COVID-19 had on their businesses. The scholarship covered the programme fees for the New Zealand Diploma in Business.

Dunwell saw the scholarship advertised in a Chamber of Commerce email and thought it would be an excellent opportunity for her team while the New Zealand border was closed and the only work they had was managing credits and refunds on booked travel in 2020 and 2021. 

"I offered the opportunity to the rest of the team because I thought it would be good for us to study together. It has been great. We support and drive each other. We're always checking in on one another." says Dunwell.

Dunwell changed how the businesses operated in the short-term so the team could attend classes during work hours.

"We all have classes on Mondays, so there is a point in the day when we have to close the doors. We've had to limit our opening hours since the borders opened even though business has picked back up. It is a short-term measure to see our studies through," says Dunwell.

The team found that studying while the business had been so adversely affected was a good way to keep them motivated and accountable.

"Studying has definitely increased my motivation, especially with how slow it was here while the borders were closed. It was good to keep motivated to meet deadlines," says Ohlson-Down.

Buckley says that studying while working full-time has made her more organised.

"I have to be more organised because I have to switch off from work at the end of the day and get into my study. Also, I have to fit in time to go to classes, so I have to make sure I have all of my work done."

Studying business at UCOL Te Pūkenga has given the helloworld team a better understanding of how COVID-19 has impacted the global economy and has given them more confidence in working with clients whose travel plans have been affected. 

"Working in tourism has been a real challenge because of reduced availability. The airlines are only at 60 to 70 percent. The industry itself is only at 60 to 70 percent. Everything takes longer, and replies coming back from providers take five or six days as opposed to 24 hours," says Dunwell.

"I've got more confidence, particularly with explaining things to customers. The leadership and management side of my studies have helped me understand Kim's position more," adds Buckley.

Business has gotten busier for helloworld since the border reopened, which has made studying more challenging for the team. Dunwell encourages business owners and employees to work together to find ways to balance work and study commitments.

"If people are going to upskill while in full-time work, there has to be an element of outside your work time and during work time to get the qualification done to a good level."

Image: The helloworld Travel Palmerston North team Berta Ohlson-Down, Ellise Buckly, and Kim Dunwell.