Ara Rau – Filling the gap for rangatahi

GIB industry open day

In the two years since its inception, 2022 ends on a high for Ara Rau, Priority One’s skills and employment hub. The dedicated team are making their mark in profound ways for our Tauranga Moana community by increasing the mahi in connecting, supporting, and growing local people into jobs and training pathways. The majority of people Ara Rau engage with are rangatahi, who for various reasons have disengaged from formal education. Ara Rau takes pride in its current model and the staff who deliver services by filling a much-needed gap working closely beside each person they support. Staff facilitate meaningful pathways into work or training that is a personalised, one-on-one approach based on individual skill, natural talent, and personality while offering follow up and pastoral care.

It’s not a job for me, this is what I feel like I should be doing. Making a difference to the futures of our rangatahi and breaking for many, a negative generational cycle, that is my focus.

Michelle Clarke, Ara Rau Employment Mentor.

This year Ara Rau received funding from the Acorn Foundation, this funding was spent on short-term courses and items to improve independence where cost can often present as a barrier e.g., drivers licence, forklift certification, barista training to name a few–training is a confidence boost and fuels motivation which has directly leads to job placements. Through the close collaborative relationships forged with Priority One business members and numerous stakeholders such as social services, training providers and employers, this past year sees over thirty people securing life changing positions and training opportunities. Ara Rau’s connection to the region’s employment market is pivotal to the success of the people they support by aligning with, and facilitating important contacts.

Such as, large organisations like Tauranga Traffic Management Limited (TTML) who are keen to give younger people a chance by placing them into work with opportunity for higher level training and career progression. Or McDonalds, whom have been identified as an empathic employer supporting rangatahi to overcome barriers (such as literacy) and discovering and focusing on strengths, for instance, cooking ability or leadership, then nurturing that talent during their employment to excel and have a long-term career. McDonalds also offers employees the ability to gain NCEA credits while employed.

We are super proud of our young people and their achievements. We had a sixteen-year-old boy who had not been to school since he was ten, come along to an industry open day with Higgins, keen to get work. Despite his disadvantage, he has since gained his learners licence and set up a bank account. He is enrolled with the Live for More programme to develop a healthy lifestyle and is making progress towards his full driver’s licence. After coming along to that Higgins industry open day and meeting Project Manager Bronson Tumai he’s now working towards his goal of joining the crew on the chip seal team.

Ara Rau Operations Manager, Mary Stewart

Throughout 2022 Ara Rau has delivered twelve workshops and four events, including a successful group of social procurement events, that focused on the opportunities, employment connections and support as a direct response to the needs advised by our Māori businesses. Staffing and employment are currently one of the biggest challenges for our employers across the region. By creating employment connections for Māori businesses and educating others on how to connect with Rangatahi, has in one instance, led to the formation of an apprenticeship and cadetship programme with HEB Construction.

Mary Stewart, Te Ariki and Ray Puhara from HEB

Ara Rau is gearing up for 2023 with enthusiasm, recently signing an MoU with Pacific Growth Services to help support pathways to work for Pacific people and working with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) on securing additional resources to expand service delivery. The success of Ara Rau is possible thanks to the extensive support from Priority One business members and MBIE who provided the original establishment funding, as well as the community of local schools, training and education providers, social and professional service organisations – all of whom contribute to the future of work outcomes across Tauranga Moana.

To learn more about Ara Rau and keep up to date with what’s happening with the skills and employment hub, visit, or contact our Ara Rau Operations Manager, Mary Stewart:

See what’s coming in 2023

June 2023: Industry Open Day | HEB Construction and infrastructure 

Come in on the shovel, but that’s not where you’ll stay – HEB offers progressive training and careers with a large percentage of their workforce being Māori, they offer a strong Māori leadership training programme for managers. They also work in conjunction with Fulton Hogan on the Takitimu Northern Link-this is an 8-year project creating connections and 360-degree involvement for Māori businesses.

To learn more about Ara Rau’s upcoming events in 2023 and to register your interest, contact: