When AUT Business School student Malachi Solomon was given the opportunity to do a summer internship at Genesis Energy through TupuToa, he felt a myriad of emotions – shock, fear, inadequacy, and excitement.
It is not unusual for a number of AUT interns to feel this way says Sinita-Ashley Tau, a student navigator at TupuToa, an innovative internship programme creating pathways for Māori and Pacific students into careers in the corporate and professional sectors.
“When Malachi first interviewed with us he was shy, nervous and incredibly humble about his successes to date, however he was also driven and determined to do his best,” she says.
TupuToa interns go through a series of workshops aimed at setting students up for corporate success and future leadership by increasing their skill set, teaching them to embrace their culture and its benefits, and creating an environment of sustained support.
“Throughout the programme, you could see Malachi’s confidence grow. Though he was shy, when it came to speaking te reo Māori in front of a large group he was incredibly confident. TupuToa, Malachi and Genesis Energy created a space where he felt comfortable to take his whole self to work,” says Sinita-Ashley.
There were three main things Malachi says he learned during his internship.
“First the importance of networking. Second, time management is important. Third, be active and ask your managers as many questions as possible to learn faster.”
Throughout his journey, his connectedness to his values and culture was a key driving force.
“Malachi is a driven, motivated, intelligent individual with a selfless nature. He has always continued to remain close to his culture and realises that this is a value add,” says Sinita-Ashley.
“He has never hidden his culture, rather he has taken the opportunity to learn, grow, teach others to understand Māori principles and continues to break down barriers for those who come after him.”
For Malachi, the experience was invaluable and he’s encouraging others in his position to take up the opportunity too.
“I normally work in the labour force during the holidays, so it was a nice change to work in an office with a comfortable chair! To get an internship is not an easy task when done alone so I am very grateful to TupuToa.”
“Joining TupuToa means that others of our culture can have an opportunity to join a company that may have been not possible otherwise, experience work within their chosen career path and network in the corporate world.”
Malachi has words of encouragement for other Māori and Pacific youth considering TupuToa.
“It is an opportunity to grow, learn and connect with leaders that have the same values and mind set as you. The only mistake you could make is not pursuing a great opportunity that is right in front of you. Kua whakatakoto Te Manuka, Turauhawaiki!”
Although Māori and Pacific make up around 22% of the general population – a figure which is projected to rise to 30% by 2033 – they are conspicuous by their absence from the leadership of corporate New Zealand, meaning very few Māori and Pacific youth have access to mentors and role models from within their communities to share corporate experiences.
This makes programmes like TupuToa, which maximise relationships between partner organisations, interns, tertiary institutions, whānau and Maori and Pacific communities, innovative and path breaking.
Anne Fitisemanu, chief executive TupuToa says: “We do differently therefore are received differently and produce different outcomes. We normalise culture and the value-add it brings into a corporate environment.”
TupuToa’s investment partners are a stand-out group of corporates and public sector organisations committed to a fundamental shift in business practices and culture.
Renee Kenyon, talent and development consultant, Genesis, says: “TupuToa was an outcome of a work-stream devised within the Global Women organisation, of which Genesis is a major partner, and contributor to a working group looking at how we can sponsor greater cultural diversity in the workplace, specifically Māori and Pasifika. As a result of the work stream, TupuToa was created, and Genesis Energy extended sponsorship further and was one of the first to sign up to host interns in our business.”
Adds Anne: “With regards to Māori and Pasifika youth, TupuToa’s importance is building. TupuToa creates opportunities for our youth that otherwise may not be available. We remove barriers that exist, build resilience, foster confidence and equip interns with a range of skills necessary to thrive and navigate corporate Aotearoa.”
The AUT Business School is a TupuToa partner organisation, helping expand learning opportunities for Māori and Pacific tertiary students. The TupuToa office is based in the AUT Business School Building.