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Job-seeking help at a vulnerable time

HIWA Kaitohu, or Director, Sophie Te Huia (right), works on a résumé with a tauira, or student. Photo: Dan Wilkinson

Job-seekers affected by the Covid-19 crisis are being supported by a Dunedin company whose founder understands what a vulnerable time this can be.

Award-winning recruitment advisor, Sophie Te Huia, set up HIWA Consulting about six months ago as people were losing jobs, having to reapply for existing ones or uncertain about future employment.

“It was really close to me,” she says of job-seeking and its emotional toll.

She realised that throughout her life, in regards to her career, she’d struggled internally about what qualities and strengths she had. As Sophie held open, vulnerable conversations with others, she understood she wasn’t alone.

“I really struggled to see myself and realised that this is really common in people.

In society there’s sometimes not enough support or validation regarding what people can bring.”


Sophie founded HIWA to help job-seekers recognise who they are, including their heritage, and what skills they already have.

She believes that in these Covid-19 times, it is vital to nurture the grass-roots growth of both individuals and business.

“There’s still a ripple effect happening in regards to restructuring,” she says.

As businesses restructure, someone who has been in the same job a long time might need to reapply for it or a new position.

HIWA helps them identify their transferable skills, and to build their confidence if they have to be interviewed in a workplace where they’ve been for years.

Young people new to the job market are often over-saturated with options, such as an increase in apprenticeships. The consultancy helps them clarify what direction they want to take.

Helping whānau

Sophie says they have 47 tauira, or students, on their books at present.

The Māori-led consultancy originally focused on youth, however now includes whānau such as mums returning to work.

A job-seeker registers with HIWA, then visits its newly-renovated community space at the Bing, Harris & Co. building in Princes St.

“We just talk about where they’re at,” Sophie says.

They offer weekly one-on-one career coaching, industry introductions and help with preparing curricula vitae. The level of support depends on individual needs.

The coaching is free for community members referred from local agencies, while executive/career coaching and résumé preparation is an “affordable” price.

A small grant from Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu enabled the company to secure its community space in the 1860s building. The space has stylish yellow walls and a room with two gaming machines which youth particularly enjoy.

HIWA is applying for further grants and investigating means of self-funding.

The motivating factor

Speaking about what has motivated her, Sophie says she’s noticed a massive disconnect between the education and support available to those looking for work, and the opportunities.

She’s keen to use the knowledge gained in her years in recruitment to help others.

In 2017, she won the SEEK SARA Recruitment Consultant of the Year Award and in 2018/19, was a finalist in the industry’s RCSA Recruitment Consultant of the Year and Recruitment Leader of the Year categories.

Her partner in running the Mana Rangatahi youth entrepreneurship and employment pathways programme, Heidi Renata, worked closely with her to create HIWA.

It is named after Hiwa-i-te-rangi, which is the youngest star in the Matariki constellation and is connected to the promise of a prosperous season.

The young company was also started in memory of Sophie’s Aunty Mereana Smith and her wonderful community work.

Sophie warmly describes her aunt.

“The weaver of people and my inspiration at the heart of HIWA. She will never be forgotten.”

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For further information:

About HIWA Consulting or contact [email protected]


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