16 Oct 2017

Corporate pathway expanded for Māori and Pasifika graduates

5:19 pm on 16 October 2017

A lack of Māori and Pasifika students taking up internships could be blocking their pathways into corporate careers, and an internship scheme aims to change that.

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Tupu Toa interns work during their university holidays to gain experience with some of New Zealand's biggest companies. Photo: Supplied / Massey University

Tupu Toa co-chairperson Rangimarie Hunia said very few Māori and Pasifika graduates and students were taking up internship opportunities.

Ms Hunia has seen an increase from 29 interns in 2016 to 70 in 2017, but said more needed to be done to encourage students to take up internships.

"They can only know the opportunities if they know about them," she said.

The Auckland-based organisation gives Māori tertiary students in their second to last year of study the opportunity to intern at different corporate organisations.

They work during their holidays to gain experience at some of New Zealand's biggest companies including Air New Zealand, Fletcher Building, and government agencies.

Ms Hunia said these organisations were after graduates in a number of areas including engineering, accountancy and business analysis.

"They're saying 'we want to have a diverse and inclusive organisation' - that means it must be able to reflect the beauty of Aotearoa."

Ms Hunia said she felt there was a desire from organisations in 2017 to hire Māori and Pasifika talent.

"It does come from the top ... and they do want to have a strength-based economy which meets the need of quite a diverse market here and overseas."

Talapo Uiva'a always wanted to move into investment banking, but knew how small the job market in finance was in New Zealand.

Through Tupu Toa, he started an internship at the New Zealand Superfund where he is now working full time.

"I think they're [Tupu Toa] changing the face of corporate New Zealand, and I think that's really important because diversity itself has a lot of benefits in terms of productivity," he said.

Mariah Hebden is a third year law and commerce student at the University of Auckland.

She said she's the first from her whānau to study at university and the corporate environment was a world many Māori and Pasifika didn't know about.

"I think at times it is a barrier for us to put ourselves out there and pursue that kind of career."

Through Tupu Toa she had the opportunity to intern at the Ministry of the Environment and will next intern at Ernest and Young's tax division.

Ms Hebden said her nerves eased once she entered the corporate environment.

"There's this attitude that Māori and Pasifika are really valuable in the corporate world - it was really welcoming."

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