100 Tongan Fruit Pickers Attend Training Workshops

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Returning workers get leadership skills for seasonal picking schemes

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Aug. 24, 2015) – Tongan fruit pickers are taking part in two leadership and training programs launched on Monday, 24 August in Nuku’alofa.

The second phase of the internationally recognised Ola ‘o e Fonua training will run for four-weeks. Each of the two programs has enrolled 50 participants. An induction/preparation program is for new workers and a leadership program is offered for seasoned workers and group leaders.

The Acting Minister of Internal Affairs Hon Dr Saia Piukala said the Ministry deploys more than 3,500 people annually to New Zealand and Australia under the Seasonal Workers Program (SWP) and Recognized Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, which brings to Tonga over $30 million pa’anga in remittances.

He said these training programs would further develop the skills of the workforce to meet the current needs of the horticulture industry in Australia and New Zealand, while also lifting workers employability, productivity, and incomes. "The Ola ‘o e Fonua training programs will help us to achieve this," he said.

The program also aims to improve workers’ literacy and numeracy, communication skills and adjust better to living and working in a new country. Graduates will receive a NZ Certificate in Horticulture (Level 1) qualification, which is internationally recognized, he said.

The leadership program on the other hand is for fruit pickers who are already leading small teams of seasonal workers. He said that these experienced seasonal workers or group leaders play an important role in ensuring that the group work and lives harmoniously together while assisting less experienced members. Group leaders will have the chance to improve their literacy and numeracy levels, build leadership and communication skills and will receive NZ Certificate in Business (Introduction to team leadership Level 3 qualification and Horticulture Level 1 qualification).

Fruit packing

Fuasino Pale an experienced seasonal worker spoke of her achievement as a group leader in a kiwi fruit packing facility in New Zealand.

As one of 23 pioneers who graduated with NZQA approved National Certificate in Horiticulture (Level 1) in the pilot Ola ‘o e Fonua program back in 2013, she said the knowledge and skills to be gained from these trainings will improve their lives and give them better pay, which most of them have witnessed.

Pale said she was chosen by the New Zealand company as one of the team leaders supervising three teams in a large packing house. "I was again asked to lead a group of teens and young adults age 15-20 who were not Tongans," she said.

"I had the skills, knowledge, courage and confidence from this program to lead these young people. The outcome was that I received praise from my supervisor…and at the end of the season I gained the trust, friendship and love from my team. If I had not done this training I could never have had the confidence to achieve all I did."

BEST Pacific Institute of Education and Christine Newland were involved in the developing the training curriculum. Training delivery partners were St Joseph’s Business College in the leadership program and the Tonga Institute of Higher Education for Agriculture and Ministry of Agriculture to deliver the induction/preparation program.

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