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Clearing a research path for rangatahi

Pūhoro intern Taylor Te Puni (front left) says one of the best things about working at Lincoln Agritech was working in the laboratory with Research Scientist Jin-Hua Li (front right). He’s also received mentoring from many others, including Biotechnology Team Leader Simon Kelly (back left) and Cultural Advisor Chaz Doherty (back right).

Deciding on a career direction can be pretty daunting for young people, but Lincoln Agritech is proud to again be clearing the pathway for one rangatahi with the help of Pūhoro STEMM.

Over the summer Lincoln Agritech has again employed an intern from Pūhoro, which enthuses rangatahi about careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by helping to develop their skills and confidence. Pūhoro does this by adding mātauranga to the mix, as its second “M”.

Taylor Te Puni (Te Āti Awa) joined the Pūhoro whānau while he was in Year 12 at Shirley Boys High, in Christchurch. At first he wasn’t sure this was for him, but he changed his mind when he realised how much support the group could give. “They were very supportive – they offered free tutoring.”

When Taylor realised he was interested in a career in forensics or genetics, Christchurch Kaihautū Te Urunga Pae (mentor) Seth Clement also helped him plan his pathway. “He pretty much organised our group in Christchurch,” Taylor says. “He found four or five people for me to talk to around the country about what career pathways were available to me.”

Taylor’s now starting his second year of a BSc in biochemistry at the University of Canterbury, even more enthusiastic after spending the summer working with Lincoln Agritech’s Biotechnology group.

“It’s much better than other holiday jobs I’ve had!” he says. “I’ve experienced working in a scientific setting. I’ve done DNA extraction and I’ve seen how labs actually work. That was probably the biggest thing.”

He helped on several different projects, but most of his time was spent in the laboratory with Research Scientist Jin-Hua Li.

“Taylor has been a motivated intern, keen on learning and very honest in his science, which are two very important advantages in becoming a researcher,” Jin says.

“He has worked very hard on his jobs with our team, and learned many microbiology and molecular skills.”

This summer Pūhoro placed 73 interns around the country – the largest number ever, says Seth.

“As the programme continues to grow and more partner organisations come on board, it’s Pūhoro’s hope to provide internship opportunities for all tauira (students) who are part of our kaupapa.”

The internships are vital in helping rangitahi create networks, get hands-on experience, build confidence, and enhance their employability, he said.

“Without the commitment from our partner organisations, Pūhoro wouldn’t be able to provide these opportunities.”

Taylor says working at Lincoln Agritech has not just been educational, but also enjoyable. “I really like the group here. There are so many people to learn from.”