Māori workforce pivotal in driving economic growth 

As part of an ongoing commitment to get more Māori with higher skills into higher-paid jobs with improved employment opportunities, Hanga-Aro-Rau Workforce Development Council recently hosted the Whanake Māori Industry event in Tāmaki Makaurau, bringing together Māori industry and key stakeholders within the employment and VET system from across the region.  This exclusive event – among the first of its kind for Māori manufacturing, engineering and logistics sector –  featured Industry and Iwi leaders, Government agencies, providers, workforce development stakeholders and key Rangatahi advocates from across the region in a rich discussion about Māori workforce and economy and its crucial role in driving economic growth across Aotearoa.

Participants and panelists brought a diverse set of experiences and perspectives that highlighted Mātauranga Māori and Te Ao Māori as an essential part of a productive and skilled workforce.  The event provided a platform for Māori industry representatives to share their insights, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and connection within the sector.  “Māori often bring a strong work ethic influenced by whānau values,” said panellist Kosta James, Managing Director of On Demand Logistics.  “This commitment to hard work and dedication to their whānau and their lives can translate into a supportive and cohesive team culture in the workplace.”

Whanake Māori reinforced some of the obstacles that Hanga-Aro-Rau WDC is working to reduce to improve outcomes for the Māori workforce and in turn support economic development for Aotearoa. “Exposure is a significant barrier for Māori,” said panellist Shazeaa Salim, General Manager Ngāti Whatua ki Ōrākei, “With a lack of robust exposure to industries and roles within them.  This highlights the importance of providing meaningful exposure and experiences to Māori to broaden their career horizons and aspirations.  There are genuine partnerships between organisations and Māori communities that could be used as an example, such as the collaboration between Beca and Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei.  The value of such partnerships in creating opportunities for Māori advancement highlights the importance of organisations being proactive in engaging with Māori communities to identify and address barriers to access and progression.”  

From left to right: Flo Samuel, Poutiaki Whakahiwa/ Māori Workforce Development Manager, Hanga-Aro-Rau; Paul White, Manager Māori Outcomes, Ports of Auckland Ltd; Debra Kingi, Training Team Leader, Primary Connect; Kosta James, Managing Director, On Demand Logistics; Dean Pouwhare, Operations Manager, D&H Steel; and Morgan Toki, Māori Relationship Lead, Hanga-Aro-Rau.

Local service providers were also invited to showcase their mahi at Whanake Māori; their active participation, alongside panellists and attendees, contributed to an event that fostered connections and collaborations to create proactive change to support a resilient and productive workforce.  The event facilitated the formation of long-term partnerships between industry, local community groups, including secondary schools to develop sustainable support systems for Māori workforce development. “The relationships and partnerships forged at our Whanake Māori industry event serve as the cornerstone for enhancing outcomes for Māori,” says Morgan Toki, Hanga-Aro-Rau Māori Relationships Lead.

The valuable insights gained from this event will inform a Māori Workforce Development Plan, launching in May 2024, which will include regional strategies and resources to strengthen support for Māori and Employers in the manufacturing, engineering and logistics sectors, now and into the future.  Whanake Māori, and the Workforce Development Plan that it will inform, are part of a long-term commitment by Hanga-Aro-Rau to create a thriving Māori workforce that will benefit all of Aotearoa.  “By harnessing the Māori workforce,” says Flo Samuels, Hanga-Aro-Rau Poutiaki Whakahiwa, “we can unlock its potential and support the growing Māori population, ultimately building a more productive and resilient Aotearoa economy.”