Topline Contracting helps young Māori achieve their best in various careers

Topline team members – proud that they are working for a company that is doing the right thing.

In the Hawke’s Bay city of Hastings, there is a humble yet inspirational young Māori business owner by the name of Taurus Taurima, who eight years ago founded a paving and roading company called Topline Contracting out of the back of a mate’s car with a wheelbarrow on the backseat. Today, that company is a Tier 1 contractor, operating throughout Hawke’s Bay, providing a diverse range of services including concrete reinstatement and construction, asphalt and chipseal reinstatement and construction, civil construction, and traffic management, employing a team of 60, and running an extensive fleet of vehicles.

Along with providing support to local schools, sports groups and the local youth, through Taurus’ vision, Topline Contracting has also established a Training Academy with the goal of transforming unemployable young people, referred to as cadets, into employable members of the community. The Academy has been operating for the last two years.

Last year, Topline Construction’s significant community contribution was acknowledged at the Hawke’s Bay Business Awards, winning the Outstanding Social Impact category along with the Supreme Award. In fact, nominations were also received for Hawke’s Bay Leader of the Year. Taurus is not one to seek the limelight, and had it not been for the intervention of his management team, neither award submission may have progressed. “At the time, we were just very busy, and I felt we didn’t have the time to put a submission in, and I preferred not to enter the Leader of the Year category.”

“I do my work and what we do in the community because I enjoy it, not because I’m looking for a pat on the back. But my management team felt that because someone had nominated us for the Outstanding Social Impact award, we should respect that, and put the submission in for that category. They also felt it provided recognition for the work we’re doing in respect to helping young people, and that other companies might be inspired by that. The judges are from other local companies and they interviewed the team. It gave a lot of people a lot more understanding about how our company is managed and what we do for the community.”

Eighty percent of the cadets who go through the Training Academy are young Māori. Taurus points out that while Māori are a small percentage of New Zealand’s population, they are overrepresented in both the men’s and women’s prisons. “My goal is to encourage them to not be one of those bad statistics, and hopefully in the next 20 years, we will have turned the tide, and maybe the Training Academy will have contributed to that.”

The Training Academy takes 15 young cadets at a time and puts them through a 12-week programme, and after a successful completion Taurus guarantees them employment. “If they become drug-free and develop a positive attitude, we really encourage them, I guarantee that they will be 100% employed upon completion of the programme.”

“Over the last 18 months, we have had an 85% success rate, and more than 95% of them have not returned to Work and Income over a year later.”

“I will go out to companies like Downers, Fulton Hogan, Higgins and Unison. But if I cannot find employment for them, I employ them, even if we don’t have a place for them. The programme is partly subsidised by the government, but there’s still a large amount of money that we have to contribute to run the programme.”

Each year 45 young cadets, with very limited opportunities and prospects, are put through the programme, with a very high success rate. “At the time they come to me, 90% of these kids are unemployable and on a benefit. They might have no license, haven’t finished school, they could be young parents, and 70% of them are using a substance of some kind. These people can never quite get a good job, or they get jobs that don’t drug test, and you know what that sort of wage bracket is.”

He says 80% of the programme is learning practical skills, with 20% theory, to build the cadets’ attitude, work ethic and capabilities to become valued members of a workforce. The first four weeks are about health and fitness, with all the drugs pushed out of the cadets’ system. Their hair is cut and work is done on how they present themselves. Their backyards at home are cleaned up and made presentable — all designed to give the cadets pride.

“We stay away with each other twice over the programme,” says Taurus. “Once in the first week; getting to know each other and building a team environment; and halfway through we stay at a marae to get them grounded back to their culture. They don’t have to be Māori; they could be Pasifika or Pakeha.”

The last six weeks are focused on work experience with the cadets’ preferred company. If they want to be a builder, Taurus will find a building company that will take them on for work experience, and that usually turns out to be the place that hires them at the end of the programme. “Sometimes the cadet’s goal is to join the military or police. There’s a course in Hawke’s Bay that runs for 17 weeks, and they might end up working at Topline till that course becomes available. We nurture them until they have achieved their goal.”

“As much as we would like it to be a 100% success rate, there’s always the occasional person who doesn’t make it. But over the last 18 months, we have had an 85% success rate, and more than 95% of them have not returned to Work and Income over a year later.”

Acknowledging the wider Topline Contracting team, Taurus says they are all very passionate about what they are doing, love working for the company and are proud that they are working for a company that is doing the right thing, which has now been recognised at the Awards. “I’m very proud of the work we do, and I am grateful that the judges have given us these awards. I’m proud that our community has acknowledged us. The cool thing for me is that hopefully, other Māori businesses can see that something can be achieved in that social impact space.”

For the little boy raised by his mother in the township of Flaxmere, Taurus is a beacon for what can be achieved; an inspiration for all of us actually. Leaving school at 16, after completing NCEA level 2 very quickly, Taurus had a dream of joining the army, enjoying the camaraderie and adventure that would bring. Going askew from the rails put paid to that dream, while another door opened with the discovery of concreting, which Taurus became very good at, setting his future in motion, along with the future of others. Shying from being labelled a good leader, Taurus says he just leads by example.

“My mother has always been a good example for me to follow and she always instilled good morals. Any leadership skills came from her, and she always encouraged me to work hard. That’s is my biggest attribute really.”

© Waterford Press Ltd 2024 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

Continue reading...

Related Posts