Hīnātore: Upskilling Māori and Pasifika Workplace Learners

The Tertiary Education Commission’s (TEC) Workplace Literacy and Numeracy (WLN) Fund supports around 7,000 learners a year to undertake learning programmes in their workplaces, in work time. Over a third of these learners are Māori and Pasifika employees, a significant number of whom do not hold qualifications and who need to improve their literacy (including digital literacy) and numeracy skills to help them do their jobs more easily and, for some, get them onto a qualifications or career pathway.

The Skills Highway team, who support these programmes, know from employers, providers and the employees themselves that workplace literacy and numeracy programmes engage and retain Māori and Pasifika employees. This project will examine the teaching and learning processes that enable this, the cultural values that underpin the programmes, and will explore the workplace as a learning environment that supports ongoing knowledge and skill development of Māori and Pasifika employees.

Project update: February 2020

The project report is now available on the Ako Aotearoa website.

Hīnātore | Empowering Māori and Pacific People through Workplace Learning

This report describes the findings from the project in relation to the processes used in the programmes and outcomes for these employees in eight workplaces. It illustrates ako (teaching and learning processes); mahi (work), how workplaces support learning and employees’ changed ways of working during and after a programme; and how learning is taken into and contributes to whānau/aiga (family) lives.

The Good Practice Guide is now live and available here.

Project update: December 2019

The Hīnātore project is almost at an end, with the research report being finalised by Ako Aotearoa. Keep an eye on their website for the release date. We have prepared a four-page summary, available here.

A good practice guide is under construction and due for release in early 2020.

Project update: December 2018

It has been a busy few months for the team with ongoing data collection. The nature of the programmes means that sessions occur at different times to fit in with shift and shop floor requirements. And the team is getting to know Auckland very well as they visit different worksites! The team is also having the opportunity to reflect deeply about the interplay between cultural competency and traditional adult learning theory, and the relationship of these to tutors’ practice. 

Research activities 

  • We are currently working with eight groups of learners across seven workplaces. 
  • Demographics: Across the workplaces we have engaged with over 50 learners, their tutors and employers. We have well-balanced numbers of Māori and Pasifika learners, have a reasonable representation of women, and a good cross-section of age groups.
  • Industries represented: manufacturing, construction, labour hire.
  • We recently held the initial data analysis workshop.

Next steps

Between now and the end of the year, the researchers will debrief with tutors and employers and listen to any reflections on the programmes. We are also going to engage with a small number of other workplace programmes – a truncated version of the research process that will hopefully let us expand the range of industries, get more geographical spread, and test some of our early thinking.

We will bring providers and tutors together early in the new year, to ‘test’ the findings, in terms of the observation framework. 

In early March, we will begin the follow-up process with learners and workplaces. The initial plan is to spend a solid block of time in Auckland, where we can do a combination of workplace visits, maybe with a morning tea shout, individual or group interviews with learners, and employer interviews (trying for a range of front-line and senior management, and home/whānau visits where possible). We will aim to have a professional videographer where appropriate.

Finally, as a taster, here’s the analytical framework we are beginning to work with:

  • Ako – adult learning, reciprocal, culturally-informed, restorative; 
  • Mahi – learning transferability, workplace context/culture, learning and development frameworks; 
  • Whānau – empowerment; workplace learning relationship with whānau literacy, social/cultural/community outcomes.

Project update: July 2018

We've been thinking hard about a more expressive and culturally appropriate name for the project and have settled on Hīnātore (pronounced he-nah-tor-re), which means phosphorescent light. In Māori mythology, when Ranginui (Sky father) and Papatuanuku (earth mother) were separated by their children, the first glimmer of light was Hīnātore. While the light was feeble and distant, it drove Tane’s ambition to bring more light to heaven and earth. He sought about procuring and distributing Te Whanau Marama - stars, moon, sun – to fill the world with light. Thus Te Ao Marama, the realm of light, this light-possessing world, came into being.

The story of Hīnātore relates to our mahi in that literacy is an empowerment tool, opening up new potential, new light. It is a glimpse at ‘possibility’ that can inspire new learning and new growth.

The light is also dynamic - changing colours and shapes as different forces collide. This is an apt description of the dynamic nature of learning and growth.

Project artwork by Evon Wilson aka E.V.E ARTZ, a Maori Artist and Illustrator from Gisborne, New Zealand with Iwi affiliations to Ngati Porou.


The project objectives include finding out:

  • Why and how workplace literacy and numeracy programmes lead to successful outcomes (e.g., economic, social and wellbeing) for Māori and Pasifika employees in workplaces. 
  • The extent to which these employees are validated as Māori and Pasifika employees in their learning programmes and workplaces.
  • How new knowledge and skills transfer to the workplace and to employees’ whānau and community lives.
  • What it is about learning in a workplace context that engages and retains learners who are reintroduced to learning, energised by it, and then apply it in their workplaces, community and whānau lives.
Intended outcomes

This project incorporates gathering the stories and observations of learners, tutors and employers so we find out more about how work place learning programmes improve outcomes for Māori and Pasifika employees. Analysis of the data from these three sources will enable us to explain and validate what works for these learners and the impact it has on their lives. 

The ‘x-factor’ of the project is a more holistic view of the learners and their learning, focusing not on just the classroom interaction, but on what the learning means for those learners and what value they perceive from it, in the context of their families/whanau and wider communities.

We aim to extrapolate from the findings cultural and pedagogical principles that can be used to inform practice. These will be supported by a kete of resources: for example,  a good practice framework to guide workplace literacy and numeracy programmes for Māori and Pasifika employees and exemplars of how these programmes engage and retain these employees. 

We also expect that the project will help highlight to employers that recruiting, retaining and developing Māori and Pasifika staff is a business advantage and an essential way of future-proofing their workforce, in light of the demographic shifts occurring to Aotearoa New Zealand’s workforce.

Project Team
  •  Cain Kerehoma, Kia Ora Consulting Ltd
  •  Laloifi Ripley, Careerforce ITO
  •  Anne Alkema, Research Manager, Skills Highway (Industry Training Federation)
  •  Dr. Nicky Murray, Programme Manager, Skills Highway (Industry Training Federation)
Key dates

Project commenced: January 2018
Expected project completion: December 2019

Project partners