Meet the Team: Ireen Manuel

Meet the Team: Ireen Manuel

Projects, Contracts and Funding Lead

When you grow up within a diverse community of thought provoking and hardworking people from all works of life, perhaps it is unsurprising that capability and capacity development becomes a key feature of your personal and professional journey as an adult.

Ireen, her husband and two sons, moved to Christchurch in 2001, like many migrants, in search of a better life. Since arriving in New Zealand, she re-trained as a teacher and taught for a few years. And while she is passionate about education, she knew that she could use her planning and development skills equally elsewhere.

Throughout her career Ireen has focused on workforce development initiatives, particularly targeted at young people. She continues to work across many sectors in New Zealand and the Pacific, designing and evaluating development policies and programmes of work, many aimed at specialist level workforces.

“I am passionate about nurturing and leading people and working with them to co-design and execute a project or programme of development together. This journey excites me as it brings together likeminded people from many diverse groups and organisations.”

At TupuToa, Ireen has worked with the team to strengthen partnership commitments with iwi, Māori businesses, and with tertiary education institutions, as well as partner agreements which focus on long-term mutual benefits. There have been many notable new opportunities.

“In August last year we secured a cultural exchange internship under the Prime Minister’s Scholarship to Asia (through Education New Zealand) to take 10 Māori and Pacific students to Vietnam. This was the first time an NGO had been recognised to deliver such a contract. There was recognition that not many Māori and Pacific people were part of this global internship programme from New Zealand.”

Last week, the team has kick started the TupuToa Cadetship Programme in association with Te Puni Kokiri, another first of its kind through an NGO. The programme empowers rangatahi Māori to achieve their professional goals in the workplace, whilst highlighting the mana of connection to their identity, their whānau, hapu and iwi. This programme is part of our wider joint COVID-19 national workforce response and support for rangatahi Māori. Despite the current economic gloom, TupuToa has continued to increase our partner network over the last 3 months.

Ireen says there is a need to think more broadly about diversity and inclusion.

“As an example, we worked with our TupuToa partners to put together an initiative tailored specifically to the needs of people presenting with impairment/s, and to support and empower them into professional roles. We are taking the same approach with our IT partners as we know that only 2% of Māori and Pacific people make the tech workforce. Our partners, interns and community work collaboratively with us to join many dots together.”

“TupuToa is about inclusion and growth. Every day, there is a success to celebrate at TupuToa. This success is reciprocal – as others grow, we grow together.”

Outside of work, Ireen is heavily involved in community initiatives, including some which contribute to development and growth in Fiji and the Pacific.

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