Initiative encourages Māori career progression


Fulton Hogan’s commitment to encouraging career development and leadership amongst its Māori workforce has led to the establishment of a role specifically designed to implement change. Read about the great work of their Kaitiaki - Māori Engagement and Strategy is doing to support Māori to succeed.

Fulton Hogan’s commitment to encouraging career development and leadership amongst its Māori workforce has led to the establishment of a role specifically designed to implement change.

The company, which employs around 5,500 people, has a large proportion of Māori in the workforce. It recognises that Māori are underrepresented in engineering roles and at leadership and senior management levels. In 2014, a new position – *Kaitiaki – Māori Engagement and Strategy – was created, with a mandate to encourage more Māori to pursue engineering qualifications and to progress towards leadership roles.
*Meanings of kaitiaki include: guardian, minder, caretaker, custodian, protector

Supporting Maori cadets

Fulton Hogan first became involved in formally supporting Māori to gain industry skills and qualifications in 2011. Te Puni Kokiri (TPK) began offering scholarships for young Māori working towards leadership development. Fulton Hogan applied to become part of this initiative and now uses these cadetships to further development in several disciplines, including civil engineering – those pursuing this career path study towards a New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (NZDE).

In 2011, the company’s promotion of Māori career progression was less structured. Jules Fulton, Group Executive Manager – Corporate Services, comments, “If you are going to do something, you need to resource it properly. That first year, in hindsight, it was probably done on an ad hoc basis. In the second year, it was more structured and we ran some very worthwhile programmes.”

Kaitiaki – Maori Engagement and Strategy

Fulton Hogan engineer Danielle Hobby (Rongowhakaata, Ngapuhi) first joined the industry as a labourer in 2004, following four years’ teaching experience. She was offered a cadetship a few months later and began studying towards a Postgraduate Diploma in Engineering (Highways) through NZIHT. Danielle worked her way up to roles as inspector and engineer, then joined Fulton Hogan as a department manager.

After nine years in the industry, Danielle was concerned that few Māori were following her engineering pathway and that there weren’t many in leadership roles. She suggested to the Fulton Hogan corporate team that, considering the number of Māori employees, they needed someone to help drive employment development. With support from Jules, who helped establish the kaitiaki position, Danielle became involved in developing recruitment, employment and training programmes, while continuing with her usual work. “I’ve been dabbling in it since 2013, and officially in 2014 in the new role of Kaitiaki – Māori Engagement and Strategy.”

What’s involved?

The Kaitiaki role was designed to be part of the process of staff development. “There are a number of Government initiatives around the recruitment and training of Māori. I act as the conduit or go-between with, for example, Fulton Hogan and TPK. I’m involved in interviews and have encouraged more of a family process, rather than the traditional one-on-one interview. Jules is very family-oriented so he gets the Māori family thing – that people are operating in a group and representing the family.”

As well as encouraging employees to apply for career development opportunities and supporting them through the process, Danielle helps identify Māori staff suitable for the Leadership Programme. She notes that often it’s not necessarily the outgoing people who are leaders, “It’s often the ones who don’t say anything who are the real leaders; maybe it’s a cultural thing, but the ones with this skill are modest.”

As a Māori engineer, Danielle serves as a role model for what she is trying to promote – Maori pursuing further training pathways in the industry. Some people find it easier to talk to her about the opportunities they might be able to access because they see that she has followed a similar pathway.

Early this year, Fulton Hogan ran a Māori Leadership Course attended by staff from around New Zealand with TPK scholarships. They learnt leadership skills, discussed what it means to be Māori and what it means to work at Fulton Hogan. Jules, who joined the group for a day, says the company is working hard to develop Māori leadership skills and a greater sense of connection. “Participants really learnt about themselves, which gave their scholarship grant real meaning and connection. They gained a sense of the bigger picture, how they could plan their own career development and, importantly, that they wouldn’t be doing it in isolation.”


There are 13 Māori cadets at Fulton Hogan in 2014, seven of whom are studying towards the NZDE. Having Māori in these positions has helped raise awareness of the development opportunities in the industry. “Before,” says Danielle, “No-one even thought about scholarships, and a lot of Māori didn’t consider completing an engineering qualification. This is creating awareness, and that in itself is a success.”

The next stage is ensuring that all seven cadets pass their NZDE modules. The company’s expectation is that this initiative will involve successful cadets mentoring the next group of young people coming through, and that the cycle will continue on (known as tuakana-teina mentoring, this is one of the Māori concepts Fulton Hogan aims to introduce).

Extending the scope

The company is pleased with progress and is extending the scope of the initiative. Jules says that Fulton Hogan needs to build much stronger relationships with Māori at national and iwi levels. “Our Māori employees come from a number of iwi. Through existing staff relationships, we’re trying to find out the ethnicity of all our people and to see which specific iwi our Māori employees connect with.”

Advice for other employers considering a similar initiative

Anyone considering this sort of initiative needs to be aware that some staff in labouring roles lack confidence in their educational abilities, Danielle says. She points out to Fulton Hogan staff in managerial and training roles that some Māori in the workforce are nervous about their lack of schooling. “I’ll ask people why they aren’t putting their hands up for career development opportunities, and often the answer is ‘I hated being in the classroom.’, ‘I didn’t finish my schooling.’ or ‘I’m dumb.’ Danielle says that 80% of her time is spent on issues around confidence, adding that confidence building is important no matter who you are: “It’s saying, ‘you can do it’.”

Danielle says that staff involved in training need to understand some of the barriers faced by Māori. “Most of our trainers are not Māori so it’s been a learning journey for them too. Sometimes, for example, they’ll offer someone a scholarship or leadership course because they’ve heard that person is good, but then think they’re ungrateful because they’ve not turned up to a training course or not completed an assignment. In fact, the challenge facing that person is that they’ve been singled out and their mates, whom they consider family, didn’t receive the same opportunity. This makes them uncomfortable.” Patience is important, she adds. “Instead of completing a course in three years, some of them might take four or five years – but if they feel supported, they’ll get there.”

Jules advises that employers should take care in appointing the person to the role. “Ensure you have someone who is passionate about it. We give credit to Danielle for what we’re trying because she has been passionate in leading it. As an employer, you need to see the opportunities and be prepared to invest in this sort of programme.”

Anyone interested in finding out about the Fulton Hogan Kaitiaki – Māori and Engagement role can contact: Danielle Ria Hobby;

If you have any questions, please get in touch:

December 2014