Korero with our Council October 25th, 2023 As a start of a series of korero with our Toitū te Waiora Council, we sat down with two of our new members to talk about why they joined the Council, how they think they can add value and what they think are the challenges for the WDCs and Toitū te Waiora. Grant Cleland has extensive experience in Governance, Leadership, Social Change, Project Management, Strategic Planning, Facilitation and Training. He has specialist expertise in employment, transition, and tertiary education for disabled people. Hikitia Ropata brings with her a broad range of knowledge and expertise across several portfolios including environmental, Tiriti o Waitangi, education, health, and social policy. She is currently an elected Regional Councillor for Greater Wellington Regional Council, representing the Porirua-Tawa constituency. Hikitia says she’s always been interested in how people (young and older) can get better access to a range of pathways to gain skills, knowledge and build expertise. “I think we’ve inherited an education system that is biased towards academic achievement and degrees. I believe vocational education and qualifications provide a steppingstone towards rangatiratanga – self-determination whether you are just starting off or looking to do something new and challenging.” Hikitia hopes the Workforce Development Councils can focus on ‘system’ change. She’d like to challenge the status quo and get more ‘earn while you learn’ and a flexible qualification system that enables individuals to work at their own pace. Grant believes many sectors and organisations are starting to grapple with the needs of the disability community. “I’d like to bring my expertise in this area. I have over 30 years’ experience working in the health, education, and disability sectors. I have also used a wheelchair for mobility since childhood, so can bring both lived and professional experience to my governance and leadership roles,” says Grant. This includes experience working with a range of people with impairments, the deaf community, those experiencing mental health issues, and Māori and Pacific communities. “I was the Chief Executive of Workbridge, one of the largest specific employment agencies for people with a disability, injury, or illness in New Zealand, for almost ten years. I’ve also been involved in development and review of qualifications, such as the Health and Wellbeing Levels 2-4 Certificate Qualifications for Disability Support Workers and Careerforce Health & Disability Qualifications. It is really important that services and qualifications assist staff to meet the needs of disabled people and whanau they serve, and that we are also focusing on the needs of our whaikaha workforce and the needs of the whaikaka community.” He believes it is especially important with the upcoming Health and Wellbeing Review. “Toitū te Waiora are currently planning a comprehensive review of eight Health and Wellbeing qualifications next year and I’m really looking forward to having input and being able to add my whakaaro,” says Grant. He adds that Toitū te Waiora are taking a transformational approach to the review and potentially introducing new qualifications or additional strands based on insights and guidance it receives from the sector, providers and the disabled people and whanau they serve. Both Hikitia and Grant agree there are challenges ahead for our sectors and Toitū te Waiora, and that we must listen and learn to the needs of our sectors. “I believe we have too many qualifications for a small country and perhaps too many VET providers. It would be great if the system was more agile, relevant, and meaningful to employers,” says Hikitia. Grant believes disabled people and whānau want more involvement in the development, delivery, and assessment of qualifications and services. “There are also some lessons to be learnt from previous workforce development projects. They’ve shown there is sometimes a disconnect between what disabled people and their whānau need and what some services and qualifications are providing. We also need to be employing more disabled people and having more disabled people at governance level.” To learn more about our wider Council, visit our Council profile page.