COREY Bryant, Te Motua Marsden, Arthurnara Brown, Carol Williams, Cody Turei, Wharekawa Martin and Kaden Richards are celebrated at the graduation ceremony last Wednesday. Photos Sven Carlsson 0S0096-01

A 10-DAY marae-based work course has generated “some of the best memories I have ever had,” as well as jobs paying more than $21 per hour.

At a graduation ceremony held at the Whakatohea Maori Trust Board on Wednesday afternoon, education group manager Rota Carrington said “this is a real graduation”.

“It’s not a graduation for participating, but a graduation for passing.”

The six men and one woman who attended the course that was held at the Waiaua Marae from June 10 to 20 now had “actual work waiting for them”.

“Their employer saw them on Tuesday,” Mr Carrington said.

The employer told the graduates that if they pass their drug test, he’s got “plenty of work for them”.

“He said he needed to buy a new van.”

Mr Carrington asked that family and friends now gave their support for the seven to carry on, as planting and pruning trees was challenging.

“It’s hard work and you need to get up early,” he said.

But the students had already shown a capacity for work by completing the course, spending 15 hours each day studying and working.

“They lived together and worked together and they have become a whanau themselves,” Mr Carrington said.

“It was a great pleasure to be watching, it feels like I’m graduating.”

The graduates were getting jobs, changing and “setting themselves up to succeed”.

Vertical Horizonz director Phil Hokianga said the Whakatohea 10-day train-to-work programme was in partnership with Vertical Horizonz, thanks to the Ministry of Social Development.

“Seven iwi members completed the programme,” he said.

Vertical Horizonz has organised similar marae-based training programmes in the Waikato and the Rotorua areas with an 82 per cent success rate, but this was the first such course aimed at the forestry industry.

Mr Carrington said Whakatohea iwi member Paula Black had provided support and pastoral care for the students during the course.

“She had a critical role when it came to the success of the programme,” he said.

Vertical Horizonz co-ordinator Lindsay Dunn, who was the company’s representative during the latter half of the course, also sang Ms Black’s praise.

“It’s a privilege for me to be here, it’s quite emotional,” he said.
“Paula is sensational.”

Ms Black acknowledged the students by saying “you have worked hard and you’ve put the hard yards in”.

“Thank you for letting me into your lives,” she said.

During his thank-you speech, graduate Wharekawa Martin said the course had given him “some of the best memories I have ever had”.

Last Thursday, the graduates met with their employer to sign their employment contracts.
Mr Carrington said all seven students had also passed their drugs tests.