Pipeline pump­ing new blood into ki­wifruit

Qui­etly tick­ing over in the Bay of Plenty for the last few years, Pipeline is about get­ting and pre­s­e­lect­ing po­ten­tial work­ers from Work and In­come of­fices, talk­ing to them about the pos­si­bil­i­ties and op­por­tu­ni­ties in the ki­wifruit in­dus­try, then try­ing t

The Orchardist - - News - By Brian McDon­ald

Pipeline grew from New Zealand Ki­wifruit Grow­ers In­cor­po­rated, who have run a com­pli­ance strat­egy with labour in­spec­torate for quite some time in ki­wifruit, and also an em­ploy­ment in­dus­try part­ner­ship with the Min­istry for So­cial De­vel­op­ment, try­ing to get Ki­wis into the ki­wifruit in­dus­try. Now it’s a force in its own right.

The Or­chardist caught up with the project lead, Ian Fryer, to dis­cuss the pro­gramme’s suc­cess. “Work­ers will start in pick­ing and pack­ing, then move on to win­ter prun­ing when the har­vest sea­son is over. Ki­wifruit is a sum­mer in­dus­try, re­ally, but there’s work all year round. It’s 46-48 weeks of work a year; once you fac­tor in hol­i­days, that’s ba­si­cally a full time job.”

The Pipeline pro­gramme gives can­di­dates a chance to see the in­dus­try as a ca­reer op­tion, in­stead of just a stop­gap mea­sure be­tween ‘real’ jobs. By all ac­counts the pro­gramme is go­ing well.

“Mostly it’s suc­cess­ful.We’ve been run­ning two years now, and we’ve man­aged to get about 250 peo­ple into work. It’s sort of a drip-feed, since we don’t do teams of peo­ple, we fo­cus on in­di­vid­u­als. We tried do­ing some ini­tia­tives with seven or eight peo­ple go­ing in to do some training and then on to em­ploy­ment, but a lot of em­ploy­ers can’t han­dle that many new em­ploy­ees at once. Bring­ing in one or two peo­ple at a time is much more man­age­able.

“There are 10 or 12 em­ploy­ers who’ll take one or two peo­ple ev­ery now and then; some of the big­ger em­ploy­ers have 30 or so peo­ple through Pipeline, some small ones just have one or

two, it just de­pends on how eas­ily you can as­sim­i­late the work­ers and how much room you’ve got.”

Pipeline also aims to make the re­cruit­ment process as pain­less as pos­si­ble for both can­di­date and em­ployer.

“Some of what we do is try to fil­ter out peo­ple with other is­sues, like drug ad­dic­tion, which would pre­vent them from work­ing. This means that when em­ploy­ers meet can­di­dates for in­ter­view, they’re only meet­ing with gen­uine peo­ple who want to work.

“We’ll take on any­one re­ally; ex-cons, long-term un­em­ployed, for­mer ad­dicts, as long as they gen­uinely want to work we’ll work around their other obli­ga­tions like pa­role or re­hab. We dis­close ev­ery­thing to the con­trac­tors do­ing the hir­ing, and as long as they’re will­ing to take them we trust their judge­ment. We don’t give up on them [the work­ers] un­less they give up on them­selves. “When I first started do­ing this, maybe 70% of the peo­ple I spoke to were on drugs; it was crazy. You don’t re­alise un­til you’re in that zone just how bad the prob­lem is, and out­siders just don’t want to be­lieve it; you’re blink­ered by up­bring­ing or cir­cum­stance, and never see how bad it is.”

“It’s as big as it needs to be, re­ally. As far as we’re con­cerned, the qui­eter we are the bet­ter, be­cause it means un­em­ploy­ment in the re­gion is down. Un­em­ploy­ment is at a pretty low level in our area at the mo­ment, so we reckon we’ve helped a bit with that.

Try­ing to du­pli­cate Pipeline’s suc­cess in other parts of the coun­try, like North­land, is also on the cards.

“We’d love to get the pro­gramme up and run­ning in other places. It’s easy to keep do­ing what you’re do­ing, but if you can keep mov­ing and ex­pand­ing then we can help a lot of peo­ple find work, and help a lot of em­ploy­ers find good peo­ple.We’ve been talk­ing to var­i­ous groups about get­ting some­thing up and run­ning in North­land, so it’s ex­cit­ing to think about all the good that could do in the re­gion.

“It also ties in with RSE as well, since to be an RSE em­ployer you need to be em­ploy­ing New Zealan­ders as well. It’s a win­win.”

Vet­ting isn’t just for the can­di­dates though, as po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers are also scru­ti­nised to en­sure they’re com­pli­ant where it counts.

“Ob­vi­ously the con­trac­tors are vet­ted by MSD as well. The last thing we or MSD want is for one of their clients to get stuck with some­one who’ll rip them off, or only pay them cash, so we’ve got to vet them first to make sure they’re fully com­pli­ant.”

“We want to do the best for these peo­ple and the re­gion, so why would we do any­thing less?”

“We dis­close ev­ery­thing to the con­trac­tors do­ing the hir­ing, and as long as they’re will­ing to take them we trust their judge­ment. We don’t give up on them [the work­ers] un­less they give up on them­selves.”

Ian Fryer

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