Wāhine forklift drivers providing for the whānau

Twelve wāhine Māori have graduated from the first wāhine forklift training course held by Poutuu Huapae (Vertical Horizons NZ) in Hamilton. The purpose is to train wāhine to drive forklifts to meet an expanding need for workers in the manufacturing, logistics and warehouse industries.

The point of difference with this course is it takes a Māori approach to its teachings and takes wāhine on to marae stayovers and visiting Māori sites of significance. Maria Huata of Waikato- Maniapoto, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou and Te Arawa is reo and tikanga kaiako. Huata is part of Poutuu Huapae’s Māori Initiatives that offer its trainees a marae experience, aroha, manāki, Reo Māori and Māori cultural aspects to its training. Huata says, “It’s a waste of time just training to drive a forklift. They can learn that somewhere else, but the difference with this course is that they go back to the marae, embrace being Māori, and learn more about the Māori world also.”

Poutuu Huapae operations manager Marcus Bathan says there is a high demand for female workers in the manufacturing industry who are keen, skilled and available. Poutuu Huapae connects with its partner companies who are looking for skilled workers and fills those vacancies by running courses like this one.

Most wāhine on this sort of course go straight into jobs. Bathan says gender equality is slowly changing for the better. “Gone are the times we are looking at gender-specific roles. There is a real opportunity for wāhine to move into various different industries. This one is focusing on manufacturing and logistics but it doesn’t matter if it is construction or whether it is civil,” Bathan says.

Kirimangu Matika from Ngāti Wairere is ecstatic about her opportunity to work on forklifts and says, ”No, I would never have thought I would ever drive a forklift a year ago. A year ago I would have been in bed watching TV”.

And Amy Rickus from Te Ati Awa says, "When we first came, we were all too scared to touch the buttons even to reverse. But now we have got the swing of it.”

Part of the government's $3.8 billion Budget 2021 will support future employment for those most affected by Covid-19.  The Ministry of Social Development is in partnership with Poutuu Huapae to roll out this course for wāhine, who are eager to upskill and finding employment. Huata is supported by three other Māngai Māori on the forklift course.

The first 12 wāhine have received their certificates and licences to drive and they will work alongside Poutuu Huapae for the next step of the journey to drive forklifts as a paying career.