Rangatahi Māori paddle waka towards new career horizons

Published on Friday, 18 September 2020

For two rangatahi who lost their jobs through COVID-19, completing the Te Puni Kōkiri skills and employment programme, Pae Aronui, has given them exciting new career paths.

On 17 September, at Kirikiriroa Marae in Hamilton, they proudly stood with 15 rangatahi Māori celebrating their achievements in the Vertical Horizonz – Pae Aronui Hōtaka alongside their whānau.

Former world waka ama champions, Te Wakaiti Southon (Tuhoe, Ngāti Kahungunu) and Te Kōpere Simmons (Ngāti Porou, Te Arawa) were both struggling to secure long term employment after losing their jobs during lockdown.

Through Pae Aronui, Te Wakaiti has secured a full-time position at the Hamilton City Council (HCC) and Te Kōpere has got a job at Schick Civil Construction company.

The added bonus for Te Kōpere is that former NZ Olympic rower Nathan Twaddle is the HR Manager at his new workplace and has created a mentorship with the rangatahi working there. Te Kōpere jokes saying, “Nathan won a bronze at the Olympics and I won a silver at the waka worlds, but we are both champions.”

Te Wakaiti said he met lots of great people during the course, including ‘the boys’ and tutors.

“I wasn’t doing anything when the course came up, and now I’ve got a page-load of qualifications which is cool, and today I passed my full class two license.”

“I’m also excited about learning something new with my water reticulation apprenticeship at the council,” he says.  

The Vertical Horizonz graduation ceremony is the culmination of 6 weeks of training, upskilling and personal development. The programme was developed to create pathways to employment for rangatahi Māori (aged 15-24 years) who were not in education, employment and training. 

Vertical Horizonz Director Phil Hokianga says he’s really proud of the journey the rangatahi have undertaken to gain new skills, qualifications and to achieve their goals.

“Of the 15-graduating tonight, 10 are in employment and two have returned to tertiary education. We are still working alongside the last three to identify suitable pathways. We also provide pastoral care for the next 8 months.” 

“One of their big achievements was gaining the ConstructSafe qualification. In the industry it is quite common to fail as you need 85% to pass but all our crew passed the first time,” he says.

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