Rotomā No. 1 Incorporation’s mahi is mostly dedicated to the forestry industry, but at the heart of ensuring its sustainability is a scheme to secure a skilled and dedicated future workforce and a commitment to iwi well-being.
The iwi trust has a clear strategic plan to assist their young people — descendants and beneficiaries of Rotomā shareholders —into employment. Bringing iwi through a silviculture (pruning and thinning) training programme is helping Rotomā to grow a solid workforce and succession plan, while proving highly successful in developing Ngāti Pikiao rangatahi.
Rotomā Kaiarahi (Career Pathway Advisor) Abe Whata (Ngāti Pikiao) is responsible for supporting their rangatahi to attain qualifications. With a Navy background, Abe joined the team in 2019 and with experience working in Te Maioha o Parekarangi Youth Justice Residence, he is driven to make a difference for rangatahi.
Before being assigned to a crew and exposed to the reality of working in a forest, all rangatahi start their training with a six-week pre-employment block course that covers first aid, nutrition, health and safety, along with site safety training.Abe explains that pastoral care and personal development are important cornerstones of the programme.
“We take rangatahi from 16 years old. Some have left school at 13, and we need to quickly assess whether they need extra support with numeracy and literacy competency, for example. We teach them the skills they need to be set up for a successful career and that includes financial literacy, so they can start saving a deposit for their future home,” says Abe.
Basic work ethics and time management are supported with mentoring. Mature workers buddy up with younger learners so they can impart valuable advice from a new perspective.
Abe highlights the changes families see in their learners as they progress through the training. “We regularly hear from whānau how proud they are of their young people when they start training; proud they are employed, earning and learning. The programme has enhanced the structural foundation of our whole community.”
Shane Kaaho (Te Arawa) is a Forestry Trainer and Assessor endorsed by industry training partner Competenz. Shane supports the rangatahi in first attaining a New Zealand Certificate in Forestry Operations, Level 3. He understands the journey many of the rangatahi are on — he followed his family into forestry 40 years ago not being able to read or write.
“I’m passionate about passing on my own experience. We achieve great outcomes. We even get the guys participating in rugby and golf. They start to learn that they are in a team, they begin to set goals, and they become their own family in the middle of the forest – they become whānau,” he says.