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Primary ITO: Knowledge to grow

News & Features

Wrap around support opens the way for Māori tauira

30 April 2021

Simone photo large v2

Starting the learning journey later on their mahi path is making a positive difference to the lives of two East Coast horticulture workers and their whānau.

Simone Tuhaka, Ngāti Porou, and Robert Barbarich, Ngāi Te Rangi, have both worked extensively in vineyards and orchards for many years and thought they had reached their work destiny, until they were invited to study the Primary ITO Horticultural Apprenticeship.

The study has provided them an opportunity to develop further skills, take leadership roles and turn their vast experience toward teaching and inspiring others.

After a just over a year of study Simone and Robert have both completed Level 3 and are on the path to completing their Horticulture Certificate qualification and take roles supervising and training others.

The pair work for kiwifruit and winegrower Thompsons Horticulture near Gisborne.

Vineyard Manager Anita Ewart-Croy says both Simone and Robert had great knowledge and competency in their jobs but did not always understand why they did their mahi a certain way.

Supporting the learning haerenga

As their manager or kaihautū, Anita has encouraged their study, supporting them to complete their assignments and bookwork.

She says the company was keen to assist them to develop their careers. “Both are particularly invested in doing a good job for the team and our company. They are willing to support us and so I was willing to support them back.”

“I am very proud that they have persevered, dedicated themselves to the study and they see the value in it. They are now making the opportunities themselves.”

Anita says both have grown in confidence, added to their skills and will over time pick up more responsibility to manage and train others in the field.

“Within the company they can be promoted to learning different things and earn more money. So that makes a big difference in their lives.” 

Growing kai and growing people (tangata)

Primary ITO Māori Engagement Manager Matiu Julian says Simone and Robert’s success is a time for celebration.

Their study journey began when Primary ITO Training Advisor Wayne West approached Thompsons suggesting that the experienced workers could study towards a horticulture qualification alongside their day jobs.

Matiu says working to feed the whānau and trying to study at the same time is very challenging. Being ready for an opportunity means finding a way to make things work and having good people around you like Anita is a gift that both Simone and Robert recognise, he says.

“It’s really important we understand that everyone has a place in the world and we also know it takes courage and real commitment to make the changes you want in life.”

“Without a doubt the support and collaboration between their employer and the Primary ITO has enabled Simone and Robert to steadily progress.”

“Thompson Horticulture’s motto is

‘Growing our people to grow great crops’,

and that’s what we are doing here.”

Matiu says investing a little bit more time and effort in people who have different needs makes a big difference to their lives and it’s great to see employers who care about the development and success of those around them.

“The study success of these tauira adds real value to the business as well as complementing their natural born gifts and the wisdom and life experiences they bring to their mahi.”

Matiu says Simone and Robert were inspired by the training and discovered their ‘why’, which revolved around growing their skills to teach others. Often people like Simone and Robert become mentors to those who are struggling in one way or another either directly or indirectly. 

“There is an expression in te reo that goes

E kore e mutunga tēnei mea ko te ako - Learning is constant’

 therefore, the difference between success and failure is learning, or not to learn. 

Finding your path is to discover who you are and that takes courage, finding good people and a willingness to serve.

“This is a celebration of the many unsung heroes like Simone, Robert, Wayne and Anita and their collective desire to grow people and food for the people.  There is nothing more Māori than that,” says Matiu.

Learn more about what horticulture programmes Primary ITO offer here