Giving up was never an option for 25-year-old Jiutasa Samuta, who finally enrolled at the Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) after trying for seven long years.
Jiutasa received a full-time scholarship from the Fiji Australia Business Council (FABC) to undertake commercial cookery.
He first applied to study at APTC in 2012 but needed prior experience relevant to his field of study in order to meet APTC enrolment requirements.
Jiutasa, who is from Fiji’s Rakiraki Village in the province of Ra, then remained at home while continuing to organise the occasional catering for village functions.
In 2013, he undertook practical work at the Tanoa Hotel in Rakiraki but soon found himself back in his village. Two years later, he applied again but still failed to meet requirements.
This was when his uncle stepped in and helped him get a job placement at the Naviti Resort along the Coral Coast of Fiji’s main island.
Work and prior experience is part of APTC’s application requirements, acknowledging that while people may not have had formal education opportunities, they bring valuable prior learning through their own experiences in a related field – through working from home, in the community or in the workforce.
“We recognise that work experience can be built on and formalised into an internationally recognised qualification that can support everyone to progress in their careers and livelihoods, and this is our hope for Jiutasa and students like him,” said Jovesa Saladoka, APTC Country Director for Fiji and Tuvalu.
Jiutasa worked as a kitchen trainee for six months at the Naviti, and in 2017 decided to re-apply at APTC.
During an APTC recruitment drive in Rakiraki in late 2017, Jiutasa was finally called for an interview. In the following months, he sat for the Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) test and Vocational Knowledge Assessment (VKA) as part of the application process.
From then on, Jiutasa paid regular visits to APTC’s Fiji and Tuvalu Country office in Suva to track his application.
“I never underestimated myself. In between, I worked as a cane cutter and a construction labourer, but never gave up on my application as I had a passion for cooking. I kept on praying to get an offer from APTC,” Jiutasa shared.
By the time Jiutasa finally scored an offer, it had become difficult to contact him due to changes in his contact details, including having no access to emails in the village. Like many people living in rural and remote communities, regular internet access is a faraway luxury.
Not letting this deter him and being true to his resilient spirit, Jiutasa decided to drop by at the APTC Office one more time to find out whether it was a yay or nay for his application. He had no idea what awaited him.
“I was praying for this offer and when I finally got it, it was not just a placement at APTC but a scholarship to undertake my studies. I did not spend money on my studies; not even a single dollar to pay for anything,” a jubilant Jiutasa shared.
The first thing he did after receiving confirmation from APTC was to thank God for answering his prayers.
Jiutasa, who is visually impaired, has received immense support from his trainers and classmates since his arrival at APTC.
“They have been empowering me not to look down on myself, and never to think of myself as different from the rest of my classmates,” he commented.
While talking about his studies, Jiutasa remarked that he would like to use this opportunity to work harder and become independent.
“I want to learn things on my own in order to become a successful person in the future,” he said.
Labelling his course as “a genuine upskill”, Jiutasa calls this pathway a unique one for him, as it will support him in attaining better employment prospects to improve his standard of living, assist his parents, and support his brothers who are still in school.
Jiutasa aspires to become a ‘famous’ chef. He believes that with the Australian qualification he will receive at the end of the course, and sees limitless opportunities ahead for his career.
He wholeheartedly thanks FABC for their generous assistance, adding that it was an emotional moment for him finding out he was successful after two unsuccessful attempts. His message to people with disabilities intending to apply to study with APTC is, to never see their disability as an inability.
“At APTC, we are all treated the same. No one has pointed a finger at me for my disability; rather everyone has encouraged me to keep doing better every day,” Jiutasa said.
He emphasised the importance of never thinking negatively about oneself but to strive to do better every day and to seek God’s guidance.
In response, Lisa Apted, President of the FABC, said education is a critical element of improving lives and development so in this regard FABC is very pleased to assist.
“The assistance to students in the form of scholarships has immense potential to increase capacity building in Fiji through the ability of students, who may not be able to afford this educational pursuit, to attend.
The FABC recognises the need for skilled workers in Fiji and applauds the efforts being made by APTC to address this,” Ms Apted remarked.
Under their partnership with APTC, FABC has sponsored four students in cookery, painting and decorating, individual support, and fabrication and welding this semester. Of the two women recipients, one is enrolled in fabrication and welding. A further five students are expected to be sponsored next year in support of APTC’s commitment to gender equality and social inclusion (GESI).