Ghandi said “a nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” A few weeks ago I was reminded that New Zealand is a shining example of this statement.

I travelled to Wellington to visit the local arm of our Talent RISE foundation, which connects young people experiencing barriers to employment with jobs in the technology sector. Talent RISE New Zealand was launched in early 2018, after successfully assisting over 90 young people in finding employment across Australia.

As we look to expand this initiative to each of Talent’s locations globally, Andy Chaggar, Talent RISE UK Director, and I decided to visit New Zealand RISE to see how our inspiring team operates, and to learn more about the young people we are dedicated to helping.

From the moment we arrived, we were blown away by the dedication and spirit of Talent New Zealand business leaders Kara Smith, General Manager of Auckland, and Bianca Jones, General Manager of Wellington. In addition to hosting record results for Talent in their regions, Kara and Bianca have been working tirelessly alongside Jess Te Moananui, Talent RISE New Zealand manager, to develop and grow this foundation. In only a short time, RISE NZ has taken off, due in large to the strength and passion of these three Māori women who live and breathe the values of Talent, they really do give a damn!

The RISE program is adapted to each country, addressing the regional challenges and needs of young people. The New Zealand RISE program is strength-based, focusing on work-readiness and professional development. In practical workshops, the participants receive CV writing and interview preparation skills, training in first aid, workplace health and safety, communications and financial literacy. They also receive hands-on work experience at Talent, providing these young people with an opportunity to learn about the expectations of corporate work environments.


This pilot program has been a huge success with 70% of participants finding placement in roles and 30% continuing on to further education.

Our New Zealand RISE Manager, Jess Te Moananui, is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of young people. Jess comes from a tougher background than most and she is passionate about supporting others who may not have had access to the opportunities one would hope every young person is afforded.

While there, I was struck by the story of Hayley, one of the young people who had struggled for some time to find full time work, despite having her level 1 and level 2 National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA). She attended the Readiness to Work RISE programme, which resulted in connecting her to a full time role at Post Haste. Despite being nervous when first coming to Talent RISE, Hayley said she was made to feel like family while participating in this program and she now classes Talent as her family. She encourages young people to “reach out to RISE”, saying it was the best thing she has ever done!

My time in New Zealand culminated with a special visit to a Marae, a communal meeting ground extremely important within Māori culture and the focal point of cultural and social gatherings.

We were welcomed on to the Marae with a Powhiri (a welcoming ceremony involving speeches, dancing, and singing). For cultural reasons this ceremony is not filmed or photographed. However, I can attest to the powerful and emotional significance of the welcoming, and I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to experience a Powhiri ceremony.

After the powhiri we were treated to a lesson in flax weaving. I think Andy and I did pretty well for first timers and managed to keep up with the Kiwi team, who all had experience.

This New Zealand trip offered many learnings from a cultural perspective, one of them being the importance of sharing any knowledge gifted to you, so on that note, here are some of my favourite newly acquired Māori words:

Mahi – Work (there’s a very common Kiwi phrase – do the Mahi, get the treats).

Aotearoa – Land of the long white cloud A.K.A New Zealand.

Rangatahi – Young person/youth. An important word considering the work Talent RISE undertakes.

Kaupapa – Purpose. Talent RISE has a clear purpose, to support young people into meaningful employment and reduce the high level of youth unemployment.

The most significant part of this trip for me was learning about the young people RISE is helping. The individual stories behind the list of names offered me greater insight into the struggles many young people face. I felt inspired by the resilience and strength of these individuals and I left with an even greater determination to grow and develop RISE in New Zealand and through the world.