The current average literacy level for Māori and Pacific people in New Zealand is 13 years old.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Afele Paea takes stride in challenging the way health and safety is being trained and delivered in the workplace. How do cultural values fit into the workplace, how do they influence the lens in which we see through, and how do we as employers refine our training to ensure that we are setting up our migrant and Pacific workers for success. Success for Pacific people isn’t measured by hourly rate or job position, it's the uplifting of values that defines Pacific success – what does that look like in a workplace? The same way it does outside of the workplace.
“This is where it requires some effort from employers or those that are charged with educating workers in their procedures and safe working methods – having a generic approach to educating pacific people to do tasks will not yield the desired results because we all learn differently, and this is where you have to tap into “how” pacific people absorb information. Finding that formula comes down to a couple of fundamentals – simplicity, storytelling and using an interactive approach. We are loyal and want to please the boss, these are some of our core values. So put the effort into being responsive to those learning needs and you will reap the benefits of a safe, loyal and hard-working workforce.”
Afele’s angle comes from years of recognizing and identifying gaps in training within several different workplaces. Information is being distributed to these migrant and Pacific groups in stock-standard European ways, which to Afele feels otherwise ineffective.
“We need to make the proper commitments to Pacific and migrant workers. It’s imperative that there is a clear strategy for each workplace to deliver Health and Safety training that is catered around literacy levels, customs, and traditions. We need to look out for our most vulnerable demographics.”
In delivering training, Afele has discovered that the highest number of serious injury ACC claims are being logged by male Pacific workers, aged 17–22 years old, working in manufacturing within the Auckland and Wellington areas.
“This is our most vulnerable demographic. With both the aftermath and current impacts of Covid still unfolding within these Pacific communities, a lot of senior students in years 12 and 13 are now leaving school and heading straight into work to help support their families financially. These last few years have been very difficult for our Pacific communities.”
He explains the importance of tuakana-teina, a term which describes the mentorship of the big brother who looks after the little brother. For those of us who have been enabled to train others in the workplace, this makes us the big brother and places the responsibility of coaching and mentoring on us.
“Strategically, we are not working in a way that is responsive to these Pacific and migrant cultures’ learning needs. The education is not fit for purpose, it is being done in a mainstream stock standard way, which is not necessarily conducive to effective training, and is not how these groups best receive information.”
This begs the question – As tuakana, should we be reflecting on the training that we are delivering? It can be argued that there are very few instances in which the one-size-fits-all approach is as effective as a tailored fit.
Perhaps it’s time we take a step back and have a look at which puzzle pieces we’ve been jamming together. It’s time to turn the spotlight around and focus on the people we’re delivering our training to, instead of just focusing on the training itself.
Afterall, effective training is best measured in comprehension, is it not?