Covid dishes out job loss

Dunedin chef Jason Shea had never been short of a job, but then Covid-19 hit the hospitality industry and everything changed.

When the nation entered Alert Level 2, the father-of-two returned to work in his role as head chef at a popular central Dunedin cafe.

“I worked one weekend and then I found out I was being made redundant … it was a shock. It made me feel hopeless.”

He was one of many workers in the cafe made redundant.

The timing of the redundancy was “far from ideal” as his children were aged 2 and 5 and he was getting married in Dunedin later this year.

He had been the head chef at the cafe for five years, which he declined to name because he held no animosity against it.

“It’s not their fault.”

The negative economic impact of Covid-19 was to blame, he said.

He started training as a chef when he left high school about 20 years ago and had remained in the industry since.

“I’ve never had a problem getting a job in Dunedin.”

Now finding a chef job was difficult as employers were “as cautious as ever” and scores of chefs were competing for the same jobs.

“Which hasn’t been the case before.”

In a bid to find work, he attended an employment seminar at Forsyth Barr Stadium last month.

He enjoyed a speech by Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan at the seminar.

“He was quite inspirational — he said ‘it’s no-one’s fault this has happened’ — I needed to hear that. It was a big comfort.”

At the seminar, he registered with employment agencies for the first time.

Through an agency, he secured two weeks of work rolling out sheet metal at Escea Fireplaces in Green Island.

He finished his assignment at Escea on Friday.

“It was nice to be working again and not stressing about bills.”

He was keen to get more work as soon as possible.

He would love to continue working as a chef, but he was open to a career change or upskilling.

This week, he was “knocking on doors” of Dunedin eateries to look for work.

“It’s all about staying positive. You can’t give up.”


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