Hanga-Aro-Rau team eyes prosperous future for Pacific people

Aotearoa New Zealand’s Pacific populations are expected to reach half a million people by 2028, Infometrics’ forecast shows, with younger Pacific people the fastest-growing demographic compared to other ethnic groups.  Despite this growth, Pacific people remain under-represented in our workforce, and where they are present, they are predominantly in lower-paid roles. Hanga-Aro-Rau Workforce Development Council (WDC) recognises these trends and the opportunity they present.

“Enabling business to better support the increasing Pacific workforce will enrich the lives of those on the job while addressing critical skills shortages across the manufacturing, engineering and logistics sectors,” says Fred Luatua, Hanga-Aro-Rau Pacific Workforce Development Team Lead.  “Our industries are crying out for workers, and it’s so important for Aotearoa as a whole, and for our economy, to work collaboratively and lift opportunities for Pacific peoples.  The more we strengthen this particular workforce, the more productivity we can expect to see across our industries.”

To address this, Hanga-Aro-Rau’s Pacific team are currently finalising our draft Pacific Peoples Workforce Development Plan 2023-2028; “This builds off the existing regional work we have been doing in partnership with groups including Pacific-led businesses, sectors with a high percentage of Pacific workforce, Pacific communities across the motu, government departments, training providers and economic development agencies”. 

Pacific employment in the manufacturing, engineering and logistics sectors was over 45,000 people at the time of the last Census, with those figures growing steadily until they plateaued with the pandemic. Hanga-Aro-Rau noted this shift and undertook two critical research projects in 2022-2023 to explore COVID’s impact on the manufacturing, engineering and logistics sectors.  The Hanga-Aro-Rau workforce development needs in New Zealand’s logistics sector report, in particular, emphasised capturing the voices of Pacific employees. This research supports ongoing efforts to engage directly with industry and to provide better feedback channels for groups that have been historically underserved by the vocational education system.  It found that Pacific people were poorly represented in senior and management roles and that many saw opportunities for better clarity and information about learning development opportunities, progression and promotion pathways. 

“There are always further insights to take around how employers can continue to better partner with this workforce and build their cultural competency,” Fred says.  “The challenge and the opportunity now for Hanga-Aro-Rau and the Pacific Workforce Development Team is to walk alongside our employers to ensure that we are supporting this important part of their mahi.”  

As the team works to finalise the Pacific Peoples Workforce Development Plan, Fred says the work is already underway.  “We are advocating for quality education that includes a Pacific lens. Our team has a key role in understanding that, and advocating for appropriate qualifications that are fit-for-purpose for Pacific people. Much of our work is externally focused because we need to have that contact with industry and our communities in the regions to be truly successful in making a difference.  This work is all about relationships and engagement, and understanding the voice of the workforce from both an industry and a learner perspective.  Those are the insights we’re now starting to engage our employers with. There is a willingness to do better, and it is our job to help them build a prosperous future for their business and Pacific peoples in Aotearoa.  If we can get the ecosystem to work collaboratively for the benefit of Pacific peoples, then we will have achieved something really powerful.”