A programme helping Hawke’s Bay locals, many of them solo parents, back into work is being praised by government and by those who work for T&G.

Minister Carmel Sepuloni (Minister of Social Development) visited workers who are part of the SEED programme this week. The joint project, with Ministry of Social Development, which has been running for the past eight years in the Hawke’s Bay, is about breaking the cycle of unemployment and getting locals back into work.

Dani Gibson had been raising her two children at home but wanted to get back into work. Through the programme working on T&G orchards and in a packhouse, she was given the opportunity to work flexible hours so she was able to drop off and pick up her kids from school. Four years later, she is now a team leader and loves her job.

Having been out of the workforce for 20 years, Keri-ann Rapira (known as Tiny) found it daunting the thought of getting a job after such a long time out of work. She now works at the Evenden Road orchard with her daughter also having worked alongside her for a period of time.

“Making sure we offer flexible hours for solo parents and wrap around support is key,” says Maurice Windle, Orchard Labour Manager Pipfruit. “We give them access to a health nurse, literacy and numeracy training and computer skills.”

There are around 1000 workers who work at T&G during peak season with around 240 of those on the SEED programme and the remainder made up of local workers and RSE (seasonal workers from the Pacific Islands).

T&G’s General Manager of Pipfruit , Bruce Beaton says the women value the opportunity that’s been given to them and as a result they become really valuable workers. “They’re really suited to orchard work, particularly disease monitoring which requires real attention to detail and taking pride in their work.”