Educationalists from around the country gathered in Auckland for Tuia Te Ako, an event which aims to strengthen Māori learner success.
The event has attracted a number of sectors including teachers and training practitioners.
For boat builder Ben Birdsall, the marine industry is a career pathway Māori should consider.
“Māori came down from Hawaiki to Aotearoa,” said Birdsall, “That was all marine-style adventure.”
“I think New Zealand, and Māori especially, have a massive connection to the marine industry. So being able to actually construct something that has some sort of heritage, some sort of tie to the past is a huge benefit to Māori and people.”
Birdsall is one of many keynote speakers from the Industry Training Organisation invited to Tuia Te Ako for the first time, which also included construction, trades, and sports.
“We want to inspire the hearts and minds of our young people,” says organiser Joe Te Rito, “[So] that they see the career opportunities before them supported by Māori as a future option they are able to take.”
Birdsall was part of the construction of seven traditional style vaka in 2011.
The Pacific Voyages fleet sails across the Pacific Ocean to raise ocean awareness and maintain cultural links with NZ's pacific relatives using traditional navigation methods.
“I think making a boat that you can feel completely proud of- it's huge,” he says.
“I was always around boats as a kid but I never really got to do something that really connected to where I was from. So being able to be involved with a boat that was from my heritage was awesome.”
“The benefit of pursuing this career pathway compared to going to a university or tertiary institution is you don't pay student fees,” says Te Rito, "In the trade industry, you earn as you learn. On completion, you receive your certificate and get a job.”
Birdsall hopes more Māori youth will take the opportunity to learn a higher level of boat-building.