TROW Group – Opening doors for disaffected youth

“Our youth are our future change-makers, and one day the environmental issues in Aotearoa will be in their hands. If we do our part in preparing them for this through a construction lens and educating them on environmental issues then that could potentially affect the future of the world.”

Saia Latu, TROW Group Founder

An open classroom initiative in collaboration with the Ministry of Education has seen TROW Group named a winner in the Westpac Auckland Business Awards for Excellence in Community Contribution for the North & West region.

The initiative was created as an alternative form of education to support disadvantaged and at-risk Pasifika and Māori rangatahi as a hand up not a handout.

“They are currently disengaged from education and employment and that’s where we come in,” says TROW founder Saia Latu.

“We provide the opportunity to re-engage with learning through our industry to assist in creating a pathway, with a view to further training or employment opportunities derived from the open classroom model. It’s about building self-confidence, tool skills and knowledge.”

TROW Group picks up the youth, takes them out for walks, to the park, the museum, and local marae just to re-centre their hauora (health and wellbeing) and spark exploration between themselves and their roots.

Firstly, it’s just about engaging in conversation and getting them connected again, says Saia. This helps participants to eventually connect with their whakapapa, mentors, different areas of construction and Trow Group’s community projects.

In terms of why TROW introduced this initiative, Saia says it was solely because TROW wanted to help Pasifika and Maori youth to take control of their futures. “What better way to do this than getting them on-site and being a part of the change TROW is creating for our people,” he says.

“We felt like an initiative like this was very needed right now as unemployment rates for Pacific and Maori people are double compared to Europeans. We must continue implementing these shifts in narratives for our rangatahi as at-risk teens are more often than not overlooked. We are changing this stigma and we have our impacts, our students’ words, and our TROW staff’s journey to show for it.”

TROW is one of New Zealand’s largest deconstruction companies and operates as a socially conscious enterprise that is helping to improve the environmental outcomes of the industry by creating a circular economy and changing lives around the Pacific as a result.

Saia, who was named 2020 Pacific Business Entrepreneur, started the company with Kiwi league legend Joe Vagana with the mission to create a more sustainable construction sector and create opportunities and wealth generation for Maori and Pasifika communities and businesses.

TROW undertakes projects for organisations such as The Trusts, Auckland Council, Panuku, Kāinga Ora, City Rail, Auckland Transport, Piratahi, and Ministry of Education.

It finds innovative and sustainable ways to repurpose hundreds of tonnes of building materials – over 90% of materials from projects are repurposed – by salvaging and diverting waste destined for landfill. This salvaged material is then recycled and reused for schools, housing, churches and communities across New Zealand and the Pacific.

For example, TROW Group has provided over 1,000 tonnes of fixtures, fittings and furniture to community organisations in New Zealand that would have otherwise gone to landfill, and also exports good quality used furniture to schools and churches in the Pacific.

Innovation is a hallmark of the company: TROW has also been involved in producing the first NZQA micro-credential for deconstruction, due for release shortly, which will include the environmental and social impacts of the industry and teach the benefits of creating a circular economy.

Saia hopes that by creating a way for at-risk teens to be surrounded by people who look like them and have been in similar situations and are now doing so much good for other Pacific and Maori people here in Aotearoa and throughout the Pacific, the teens can be motivated.

“Our youth are our future change-makers, and one day the environmental issues in Aotearoa will be in their hands. If we do our part in preparing them for this through a construction lens and educating them on environmental issues then that could potentially affect the future of the world.

We also hope that what we do at TROW Group, as a fully Pasifika-owned and operated company, motivates them to strive towards reaching their full potential in life.”

He hopes winning the award will inspire the Pasifika and Maori community of current and future business owners. “Past winners in this category have typically been NGOs. So it was a real coup to be a successful commercial company winning this. It showcases it’s possible to do good business and to also help the community.”

© Waterford Press Ltd 2022 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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