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Venture Group News & Events

A new Venture for Neil     

June 2012

After two and a half years with Venture Group, Neil Shaw is leaving our team to take up a new role as Programme Manager in the Insurance and Prevention Services Group of ACC.  Neil will be taking a particular interest in young driver programmes, following his career interest in Youth Enterprise, Employment, Learning and Development (YEELD).

Neil’s role has been to manage national relationships from his office base in Wellington and he became a familiar face to many of our colleagues across New Zealand, attending many conferences and seminars on behalf of our Northland based team as well as leading a number of national projects in the areas of Adult and Community Education, productivity and literacy.  This national representative role will revert to Tricia Cutforth.

“It’s been a great time with Venture Group.  The opportunity to work so closely with an experienced and expert team, directly engaged with individual workers and small businesses, has been very enjoyable and it has given me a great insight to how New Zealand really works.”


Developing the skills of Maori farm employees     

May 2012

Venture Group has been exploring the literacy and numeracy needs (including digital and financial literacy) of Maori farm employees in Northland.

The project, which is partly funded by AKO Aotearoa’s Regional Project Fund, involved Jill Hartles from Venture Group working with a sample of Maori employees from three different types of farms in Northland.  The farms included two State-owned Landcorp stations, one Maori Trust-owned farm, and two privately owned and owner-operated farms.

Jill visited each farm and explained the project to the farm managers and staff.  Jill also used this meeting to learn more about the work tasks required so that she could put together a literacy/numeracy assessment which would identify any possible knowledge gaps between what is expected and what staff are able to do.

During this initial visit the 5 participating farms and 17 Maori staff indicated their willingness to take part in the research project.  The 17 staff completed a self-assessment which required them to rate their skill level against a list of generic literacy and numeracy skills, their digital and computer knowledge and skills, and their understanding of 26 financial terms.  

On Jill’s second visit each person completed an in-depth literacy/numeracy assessment based on the literacy/numeracy demands of their work. The results of these assessments have been presented to the participants and a summary report written for each of the farm owners or managers.

Venture Group will be presenting the broader findings from the project at the Industry Training Federations’ Literacy Forum in Wellington in June.


Strategic Planning for the New Year

December 2011

The end of the year was clearly a time of stocktaking and forward planning for a number of local community organisations, and Venture Group was kept busy with requests for our facilitation services. 
Bringing in an independent facilitator means that group members don’t have to have responsibility for managing the process of these meetings.  An external person can help planning meetings stay on time and on track so that the goals decided by the group can be achieved.

Two of the organisations that Jill Hartles worked with were CBEC Eco-Solutions, and English Language Partners (ELP) Northland. 

CBEC Eco Solutions provide education, consultancy and practical environmental solutions within the community from their bases in Whangarei and Kaitaia.  Their goal is to reduce waste to landfill and create more sustainable practices within the Northland area.  CBEC Eco Solutions specialize in energy and water conservation projects as well as waste reduction advice for businesses and the community.
It was the first time CBEC Eco Solutions had engaged an outside person to help them work through their different projects, identify short, medium and long term activities, prioritise the work involved, and identify responsibilities within the team. 

ELP on the other hand, were ‘repeat customers’ for Venture Group, having used our services at past strategic planning sessions.  That meant Jill knew something of the discussions that had occurred, and was able to use this knowledge to help the group consolidate their plans for the year ahead and the near future. 


Research on Migrant Settlement Factors

November 2011

 Venture Group is working with the Settlement Support New Zealand Coordinator and the HR Manager at Whangarei District Council on a project studying local retention of the migrant workforce and identifying the factors that influence local settlement. 

Over the last five years, Council has recruited a number of staff from overseas, some of whom leave Council’s employ within two to five years for employment elsewhere.  As part of its process to maximize the success of its migrant appointments, Council is interested to establish why some migrant staff remain in their positions while others leave, and to identify any particular factors that tend to trigger or influence their respective decisions.

The project involves
• discussions with the HR team and Managers who currently have migrant staff in their teams;
• an online survey questionnaire emailed to both those migrant staff who are currently employed with WDC and those who have left WDC employment within the last 5 years.
• a focus group discussion with volunteer survey respondents

Council expects that this study will generate information and recommendations that will inform Council’s own recruitment and retention of migrant staff, and that some findings will be able to be generalized to the benefit of other local employers.

Venture Group expects the project to be completed by the end of March. 


Tiaho Trust’s first Whanau Ora ‘venture’

October 2011

Tiaho Trust is a ‘for disabled - by disabled’ organisation that provides information and empowerment services to the disabled community of Northland.  The Whangarei-based Trust has been instrumental in coordinating or supporting many of the major initiatives undertaken by Northland’s disabled community:

  • expansion of disability parking and improvement of public access ways within Whangarei City;
  • the formation of a Disability Sector Reference Group;
  • the adoption by Whangarei District Council of a WDC Disability Action Plan; and
  • a collaboration between select Northland tourism operators to produce New Zealand’s first ‘accessibility tour route’, fine-tuned to meet the accessibility requirements of tourists with disabilities. 

Tiaho Trust won a Whanau Ora contract under the Whanau Integration, Innovation and Engagement (WIIE) initiative.  The criteria for participation in Tiaho’s Whanau Ora initiative, whanau must have a whanau member with a disability. 

Tiaho engaged Venture Group to produce administration and process tools for use by participants and Tiaho staff, ready for roll-out in September.  A major focus of Tiaho’s Whanau Ora approach is the development by each whanau of its own Whanau Plan covering the next 2 – 5 years.

Gill Minogue of Venture Group developed tools covering all aspects of a strengths-based participation and administration processes.  Tiaho Trust’s CEO, Jonny Wilkinson, was very pleased with the timeliness, breadth and quality of the tools that Gill produced, commenting, “You’re a machine!  You’ve done a really good job here and exceeded my expectations!”

In turn, Venture Group regards its work for Tiaho Trust as aligning perfectly with Venture’s own objective of ‘turning ideas into action’!



Putting First Line Management into practice in Northland businesses

September 2011

Supervisors and team leaders at McRaes Engineering have just completed Putting First Line Management into Practice, a training programme designed for them by Jill Hartles from Venture Group.

The workplace based programme ran over a five week period, and used a mix of group and one-on-one individualised training sessions.

Venture Group developed the programme for staff in supervisor roles who have often come from a background of technical expertise rather than people management.

The content mirrors that of a National Certificate in First Line Management.  While McRaes staff did not require the training to be unit based, the programme could be easily reshaped to achieve this.  Venture Group has been recognised by Competenz as a deliverer of this qualification.

Dennis Maconachie, Chief Executive of McRaes, who contacted Venture Group to develop this training, was impressed by the positive impact of the training after only the first week.

This view is mirrored in some of the comments made by participants when asked ‘What was the most beneficial aspect of the training?’

  • “more confident in making decisions and carrying them out”
  • “better able to communicate with others”
  • “uniting the people involved to focus on an agreed target”
  • “felt valued as the company invested in me”
  • “learned new techniques to deal with people”
  • ”reinforced that some of the things I do are right”
  • “group involvement was good, able to converse together on work related issues”
  • “had thought initially it would be more ‘process and task’ focused, had not really considered the impact communication skills such as listening have on processes and procedures in a workplace”.

Putting First Line Management into Practice is now running with supervisors at Circa Marine and Industrial, and Venture Group is talking to other businesses in Northland who are keen to develop the skills of their supervisors.

If you’re interested in a customised learning programme that meets the needs of your company and your staff, contact Jill Hartles at Venture Group, ph 09-4387750 jill@venturenz.co.nz.

We can also advise you on government subsidies that may be available to support this training.


Adult and Community Education Collaborative Activities Project Framework completed

August 2011

Venture Group has completed the ACE Collaborative Activities Project, commissioned by the Tertiary Education Commission to “ensure that focused and effective collaborative activities across the ACE sector take place in a systematic and structured way which leads to better outcomes for ACE learners…”

Venture Group’s research firstly identified the core principles of collaboration, and the outcomes and effects that collaboration can have on ACE learners and the organisations that work with them.

Between February and April 2011 Neil Shaw from Venture Group then held a series of 10 regional meetings and some 40 individual discussions with ACE organisations throughout New Zealand.

This process of research and dialogue led to the development of a Collaborative Activities Project Framework, aimed at building both capability and quality in ACE organisations.

The Framework proposed that a Collaborative Activities Project Fund be established, with the objective of enabling TEC-funded ACE organisations to ‘build long term partnerships that take consistent, strategic steps to achieving organisational and collective goals, leading to improved benefits and outcomes for learners’.

The Framework proposed that resources from the Collaborative Activities Project be made available at two levels of support:

a) Seeding of new projects and ideas

b) Sustainable Development of existing projects/ideas and of projects with national or sector strategic significance.

The Collaborative Activities Project Framework document, which was presented with the support of the CAP Project Oversight Group and ACE Aotearoa, has been formally approved by the TEC. You can view the full Collaborative Activities Framework document here.

Venture Group delivers Workplace Communications programme at Switzer Residential Care in Kaitaia

August 2011

The high quality of care received by the many residents of Switzer Residential Care in Kaitaia derives largely from its commitment to professional development opportunities for its staff of almost 100 employees.   When Venture Group offered to deliver a Workplace Communications course specifically tailored to the Switzer workplace, General Manager, Jackie Simkins, immediately recognised the course as another tool for her extensive staff-training tool kit.

Jackie invited Venture Group to make a presentation on the Workplace Communications to an all-staff meeting.  Ten volunteers stepped forward for the first intake, and showed that they had what it took to complete the purpose-designed 40 hour Workplace Communications course – outside of work hours!

One hour sessions held twice a week saw participants tackle a wide range of communications skills, including active listening, assertive speech, conflict resolution, public speaking, and analysis of text through critical reading, along with workplace maths.

The Workplace Communications training required participants to ‘walk the talk’ by practicing new communications skills not only with each other in the group, but most importantly, in their work roles at Switzer and with whanau and friends.  Feedback from supervisors and family members clearly showed that the training was making a difference - participants were now contributing to staff and strategic planning meetings, showing greater confidence in their work, and also using their new skills at home.  Participants commented:

“I’m now confident with my work and the service I give, talking, and understanding our residents”

“Where people communicate positively, problems are able to be solved well, ideas always taken on board, and suggestions valued.”

“I’ve become more confident and open with my verbal communications. I’ve got to know other people outside my work department. I really like our group discussion, makes it more interesting and fun. We seem to have a lot of laughs even though we’re pretty knackered by the end of the day.”

“I’m learning to be more assertive and to listen to others.”

A real bonus of the Workplace Communications training was the strong camaraderie that developed within the group.  Participants valued the chance to build relationships with colleagues from different teams from across the organization, and to share their work knowledge as part of working together on challenging communications topics.

Switzer Residential Care recently held a certificate presentation event for the graduates of its first Workplace Communications graduates.  Venture Group’s tutor, Dianne Phillips, was warmly thanked for her excellent delivery, and for ensuring a supportive and positive learning environment.  A second run of Venture Group’s Workplace Communications course started at Switzer Residential Care in late June.

Collaboration and the Culture, Heritage and Arts Sector in Whangarei

July 2011

Venture Group’s Gill Minogue has been working with CHART North CEO, Chris Carey, on a unique concept called the Capital Projects Collaboration, designed to attract greater funding for Whangarei’s culture, heritage and arts sector. 

Extensive sector consultation conducted in 2009-2011 identified that the sector’s major funders are increasingly expressing two interlinked preferences:

• To work with sector groupings rather than individual organisations whenever possible;  and

• To be able to inform their funding decision-making through a closer understanding of local community and sector dynamics. 

Funders recognise that funds are best utilised when a community’s heritage, culture and arts sector is cohesive and agrees on strategic priorities.  The Capital Projects Collaboration is a Whangarei response to funders’ preferences, and powerfully demonstrates the local sector’s growing commitment to collaboration as a means of achieving inter-related and often shared objectives across the culture, heritage and arts fields.

Ten collaborating organisations agreed to a review of their business capability as one criterion for membership in the collaborative.  Venture Group designed the review tools and process while CHART staff held review meetings with each organisation.  Collaborating organisations also furnished their plans for their major capital works project/s for the next decade.   Venture Group recently presented a Capital Projects Collaboration report for the consideration of the recently formed sector Advisory Group.  The Advisory Group is charged with recommending a priority list of capital works projects for completion through to 2020 to the CHART Board, on the basis of both the report and their own expert knowledge of sector funding trends and requirements.  

The Capital Projects Collaboration clearly has the potential to deliver multiple benefits, notably the opportunity for sector organisations to:

• streamline and align funding applications and timeframes

• maximise the leverage of available funding through careful joint planning, and

• grow the capability of local heritage and arts organisations in times of financial constraint.

Venture Group would like to acknowledge CHART CEO, Chris Carey, for his championing of this exciting initiative, the CHART Board for its support, and the ten Whangarei organisations who are ‘walking the talk’ of collaboration through their commitment to the Capital Projects Collaboration:

The Papermill                                            Youth Theatre

Waipu Museum                                         Hihiaua Trust

Old Library Ltd                                          Reyburn House

Whangarei Museum                                  Whangarei Arts Museum

The Quarry Youth Music


Northland Farmers Gain from Workplace Productivity Project

22 June 2011

(Article in Northern Advocate by Tony Collins, CEO, Northland Chamber of Commerce.) 

 Over the last 18 months or so, the Northland Chamber of Commerce has managed a Department of Labour funded project relating to workplace productivity.  The study examined the importance of people and processes in a business’s performance.  It involved Venture Group consultant Jill Hartles working with six different farming enterprises in Northland, ranging from a ‘new entrant’ to farming, to a large multi-farm business.  Five of the farms, including an organic farm, were dairying enterprises and one was a Maori trust-owned farm. 

Jill had one-on-one sessions with the farmers every six weeks helped to demystify things like strategic plans and staff performance reviews and gave the farmers an opportunity to talk about their businesses with someone who was independent.  The difference in scale and experience of the various enterprises meant each business was at a different stage in its development.  This was not to say that there were not similarities in the lessons they took from the project or from the processes they went through to achieve their outcomes.

While the businesses found it difficult to measure the value of this project in dollar terms, they all experienced an improvement in the day-to-day efficiencies of their farms.  To initiate change required committed and innovative leadership from the business owners.  They needed to be able to communicate a shared vision with their workforce and to create an environment which encouraged everyone in the workplace to identify opportunities to do things better. 

The key lesson was not so much what was learnt but the process that lead to the implementation of the learning.  Although all the businesses were willing participants, they also had some reservation in regards to the amount of time they would have to commit to the project.  They noted that having an outside consultant driving them in the initial stages was essential to maintaining their motivation to change.  They also said that at some stage during the process they all underwent an epiphany where it suddenly became clear what they needed to do and why. 

It was not so much a case of delivering knowledge and information to these owners as they were experienced farmers with access to most of the information they needed to instigate change, but rather tailoring a response to their individual business that would lead to that moment where the switch is flicked and the answer is obvious and this is where the outside assistance was of most value.


Venture Group supports community development work in Rawene

May 2011

Gill Minogue from Venture Group recently completed a project with Rawene and Districts Community Development Inc (RAD), thanks to funding received through the Tindall Foundation. 

Tindall provides SCOPE (Strengthening Community Organisations Project) funding to projects in Northland and elsewhere. 

SCOPE aims to build the capacity within a particular sub-set of the not-for-profit sector by providing funding for small community organisations to access the assistance of experienced sector-savvy consultants at no cost to the groups. 

Each project is based on the consultant and the group having a shared understanding and ownership of capacity-building initiatives. 

Tailored templates and tools are then developed that can be used into the future.  Each project should be left with enhanced skills that enable boards and / or staff to work more effectively and to better manage future challenges. 

Gill worked with RAD in the South Hokianga to establish the foundations for sustained growth, including what skills the group needed. 

RAD identified the need to recruit people from the local community with specific skills, or who were willing to be trained to provide them.  RAD also identified the need to share information and understanding about the transition the group was making to a more strategic, proactive ‘thinking’ mode.

All along, the project endeavoured to ensure that there was clear communication with the local community re RAD’s vision, mission, purpose and role.

RAD found Gill’s assistance of real value, and Venture Group wishes RAD all good things for the future. 


Venture Group offers subsidised support for SME businesses in Northland

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise voucher scheme means businesses can save up to 50% on training and coaching investment.  
May 2011

Venture Group is pleased to announce that New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) and Enterprise Northland have registered Venture Group to provide capability development services to small businesses in Northland. Small to medium enterprises (SMEs) may qualify for vouchers to help pay for services such as training workshops and one-to-one coaching that build the management capabilities of owners, operators and key staff.

As part of this, Capability Development Vouchers may be allocated to help businesses pay for up to 50% of the costs of services (up to a minimum value of $5,000 excluding gst). Many of Venture Group’s services – including our workshops - have qualified for the Voucher Scheme. Click on business to see the range of services you can access for half the usual price!

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) Capability Development vouchers are available through Enterprise Northland, whose staff undertake an initial assessment of a business to determine its needs. They then refer businesses to service providers such as Venture Group for appropriate information, advice, and support.  

For more information on the Capability Development Voucher scheme locally contact Enterprise Northland on 09 438 5110. General information about the scheme is available at www.business.govt.nz – scroll to ‘get help in your region’ at the bottom of the front page.


Te Reo Mâori and Quality Service Provision

April 2011

Workplace literacy was the start point for a recent Venture Group research project, ‘Tai Tokerau Workplace Literacy’, which explored the quality service expectations of health services clients who are native speakers of Te Reo Maori. The research concept emerged from discussions about workplace literacy training between Venture Group and Te Rûnanga o Whaingaroa, an Iwi authority and service provider based in Kaeo, Northland. Venture Group contracted Arapine Walker (Ngati Rangiwewehi)  as lead researcher for the project.  The research was funded by Pûtea Arapiki Ako, a Tertiary Education Commission fund that supports innovations to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes for Mâori and Pasifika adult learners.

Venture Group’s research aims were to deepen the workplace literacy sector’s understanding about the relationship between Te Reo Mâori, Tikanga Mâori, and the development of workplace literacy and numeracy skills for Maori adult learners. As research partner, Te Rûnanga o Whaingaroa had a primary objective of obtaining information that would advance its own goals regarding Te Reo Mâori capability development and the delivery of quality services to clients who are native speakers of Te Reo Mâori.

The research’s literature review found no clear guidelines for quality service provision to clients who are Te Reo Mâori speakers.  The language needs of clients whose first or preferred language is Te Reo Mâori have not yet been adequately investigated or addressed. Through a process of document review, surveys, discussions, one-to-one interview and hui, the researcher identified that:

  • Research participants identified Tikanga Mâori as the wider context for Mâori literacy.
  • Te Reo Mâori and Tikanga Mâori are intrinsically linked - Te Reo Mâori exists in the context of Tikanga Mâori, even when Te Reo Mâori is used in a workplace or mainstream setting.
  • Staff who are comfortable in Mâori settings may not necessarily be confident to converse in Te Reo Mâori.
  • For native speakers of Te Reo Mâori, quality service provision includes service delivery staff who are able to speak, listen, read, write and behave in a culturally competent manner that also includes the use of appropriate body language.

Current workplace literacy funding assumes that English as the language of the workplace despite the fact that Te Reo Mâori is clearly the primary or preferred language of some workplaces, particularly Mâori education and health providers, and many Iwi organisations. This research showed that Te Reo Mâori is also the language unequivocally preferred by some clients and a feature of quality service provision for them.

The report made a number of recommendations to the Tertiary Education Commission in its role as primary funder of Workplace Literacy programmes and the wider tertiary education sector, including that:

  • a Mâori-defined definition of Mâori literacy and associated Learning Progressions or similar be developed, and
  • TEC’s internal capability be developed to assist Mâori in ensuring that workplaces are supported to become bilingual and bi-literate in terms of Te Reo Mâori and English where this aligns with the business and outcomes goals.

The report also included recommendations for a Venture Group workplace literacy programme featuring Te Reo Mâori to be developed in collaboration with an Iwi organisation, and recommendations for Te Rûnanga o Whaingaroa with regard to its Te Reo Mâori capability development plans.  
Importantly, the research also identified that there was an opportunity for Te Rûnanga o Whaingaroa to take a lead in providing services in Te Reo Mâori in its area.


Kiwi Protection in Northland

April 2011

‘Dogs Kill Kiwi’ is the message that DOC will be sending to Whangarei dog-owners and Whangarei residents in general. Last year Venture Group was commissioned by DOC to conduct market research  to shape a new community education programme designed to help protect kiwi and reduce the number of kiwi being killed by dogs. 

Venture Group interviewed residents from across the District to find out what they knew about the viability of local kiwi populations and the threat that dogs pose to them. Levels of knowledge about kiwi and the major threats to kiwi survival were mixed. Many people thought that only uncontrolled or neglected dogs posed a threat to kiwi – they were unaware that any dogs, not just hunting dogs, can suddenly switch into ‘natural hunter mode’ to chase and kill kiwi, given the chance.  

The research uncovered strong feelings of interest in the Kiwi and support for measures to protect it.  It also identified two main target groups for DOC’s education programme: people who know very little about kiwi; and people who know that kiwi numbers are declining but assume that DOC and community groups are able to handle this problem alone.

Dogs are a major threat to kiwi of all ages, hence the ‘Dogs Kill Kiwi’ warning.  Stoats, ferrets and cats however eat kiwi eggs and young kiwi, and humans can destroy kiwi habitats if they clear land without consideration of local kiwi populations.  DOC’s new education programme will therefore cover all of these threats to kiwi and outline some simple but important steps that dog-owners and the general public can take to help save our national bird.


A Whangarei Venture That Turns Ideas into Action

Northern Advocate, February 2011

‘Turning ideas into action’ is the phrase Whangarei local Tricia Cutforth uses to describe what her company Venture Group does. Venture Group does a range of work with the public, private and not-for-profit sectors in Northland and nationally.  Helping an SME grow the potential of their employees, writing a strategic plan for a not-for-profit organisation, and developing a national tourism skills strategy are examples of the work Venture Group has done since Tricia established the company over seven years ago. The company operates three business arms - Venture Consulting, Venture Literacy and Knowledge Ventures. 

Venture Consulting: strategic planning and business health checks

Tricia and colleague Gill Minogue, who is based in the Far North, work mainly on Venture Group’s core business of social research and consulting.  “But don’t be put off,” jokes Tricia.  “We’re not your usual ‘highly paid consultants’.  We’re local and cost effective.”

Assisting a small business to put together tender applications so that they can compete for large-scale local projects that would normally go to an outside bidder with more experience in the tendering process is one example of where Venture Group can help.  Other common areas where systems and policies are needed include Health and Safety procedures, recruitment and induction packages, and operating plans.

Venture Group also undertakes national contracts with a regional focus, advocating strongly in Wellington for relevant projects to be based in Northland. The company is currently working on a Workplace Productivity Project with six Northland farms, funded through the Department of Labour.

“When we started the project, we found that much of the knowledge about how things were done and where to find important equipment was in the farm owner’s or manager’s head.  So helping them document the information is really valuable,” says Tricia.  Venture Group has assisted with a range of people-related issues, including drafting relevant job descriptions, developing staff induction packages, and designing regular staff review processes. 

Knowledge Ventures: creating affordable local training opportunities

Tricia saw a need for providing quality, cost-effective professional development opportunities for Northland people.  In the past, people needed to attend  courses in the main centres, incurring high expenses. To address this need, Venture Group began offering locally-based courses at an affordable rate. Since 2007, Jill Crispin has coordinated the workshops which have proved very popular, with increasing interest from the private sector.

Workshop topics include Practical Project Management, Effective Business Writing, Developing Successful Sponsorship Relations, Effective Verbal Communication, Report Writing, Managing Difficult Conversations and Essential Facilitation Skills. 

Venture Literacy: lifting staff communication skills lifts productivity

Jill Hartles joined Venture Group in 2005 to set up Venture Group’s workplace literacy arm, and due to demand Anne Mattin joined the company last year as a fulltime workplace literacy tutor.

The workplace literacy programme includes reading, writing, maths, interpersonal skills such as speaking and listening, critical thinking, problem solving, taking initiative and teamwork. Company productivity can also be affected when an experienced worker can’t use a computer, write reports, or fill out budget projection sheets accurately.  Venture Group identifies actual skills needed and addresses these gaps.

The programme is fully funded by Government, but that doesn’t mean it is free: employers contribute through releasing and backfilling staff for training.

Venture Group has successfully worked with Barfoote Group, Culham Engineering, Silver Fern Farms (Dargaville), Ballance Agri-nutrients, and Hansen Products to develop company-specific workplace literacy programmes, and is currently working with staff at Winstone Aggregates, Northpine, Hynds Pipe Systems, Golden Bay Cement, Rosvall Sawmill, and Rudolph’s Sandblasting and Abrasive Coatings, and the Switzer Rest Home in Kaitaia.

“The feedback from these companies has been fantastic,” says Jill. “Because the programme is individualised, the training lifts the skill-set of individual employees, as well as the company’s productivity.”

The future for Venture Group

Tricia has seen Venture Group grow into a team of six, each with broad generalist skills and their own areas of expertise.  The team is supported by a number of permanent and casual contractors, including associate researchers with expertise in specialist fields such as Te Reo Maori, statistical analysis, and telephone and online surveys.

While still firmly rooted in Northland, Venture Group has recently established a branch in Wellington, employing Neil Shaw, a consultant who has emigrated from the UK.  Neil services the company’s growing national profile and major nation-wide contracts. 

Venture Group has outlasted many similar companies, and Tricia attributes this to the company’s people, its philosophy and its practices.  The company is committed to its work having practical application and to making a positive difference locally, regionally and nationally.  Building relationships and strong networks have been essential to the company’s success.

Says Tricia,“we try to lead by example in all areas of our work.  As a small business, we know the challenges of finding time to systematically plan, develop written policies and operating procedures, or put together a staff performance review.  But we also know the value of putting these systems in place.”

Venture Group has a strong focus on work and life alignment and Tricia is clear on the importance of this. “Your people make your business.  Always recruit people with different or better skills than yourself and value your team.”  To business owners, she says; “Lead by example and never give up. Create a great workplace culture - that’s the key to business success.” 


Adult and Community Education Collaborative Activities project

Recently Venture Group was commissioned by the TEC (Tertiary Education Commission) to work with the ACE (Adult and Continuing Education) sector across New Zealand to explore ways in which the sector could develop appropriate ways to collaborate effectively. 

The Collaborative Activities project is intended to support the ACE sector to develop and sustain strong relationships following a period of rapid change.  TEC are keen to support the sector, primarily through their contracted providers, to be able to build collaborative relationships that encourage joint working and sharing of information and expertise.  These relationships may be new or may develop existing work and interests, but should aim to improve the potential for ACE learners to be supported well.

Working closely with an experienced, sector based project oversight group, the notion of closely interlinked, interdependent organizations has developed from exploring the nature of networking and innovation, captured in the idea of the kumara korero, with the linking tendrils between kumara both offering connection and sustenance to support a strong crop.  This approach is intended to show the true nature of inter-linkage and mutual benefit that can come from collaboration and proactive networking.

During over the next few weeks Venture Group will be meeting colleagues in the ACE sector across New Zealand, both in local workshops and individual conversations, to understand and develop practical ideas that will be relevant and valuable to ACE organizations in their work to improve the benefits for learners. From this dialogue, we expect to develop a framework of approaches that can be supported by TEC in its ongoing work with the ACE sector.


Assisting with a Rugby World Cup Environmental Responsibility Programme

February 2011

Enterprise Northland recently engaged Venture Group to develop a stocktake report on Northland’s Rugby World Cup 2011 Environmental Responsibility Programme.

As part of winning a bid to host two Rugby World Cup 2011 matches in September next year, Northland needed to show that it had environmentally responsible practices in place and was planning appropriate actions for the Rugby World Cup 2011 period.

The stocktake report covered areas such as transport, climate change, resources, waste management, water use and quality, maximizing sustainability and communications. Jill Crispin from Venture Group interviewed key people and reviewed documents, collating the information into a document which will be sent to the national Rugby New Zealand 2011 body.

Information from all participating regions is being gathered so that national initiatives can be developed which will help make the Rugby World Cup 2011 an enjoyable experience for New Zealanders and for overseas visitors.


Venture Group completes stocktake of sustainable business initiatives

June 2010

Venture Group has recently completed a review of the key activities and sub-projects of a sustainable business initiative undertaken by Enterprise Northland.

In 2007, Enterprise Northland was contracted by Ministry of Social Development (MSD) Community Project Development Project to provide business advisory services to projects with the potential to develop into sustainable businesses and create new employment.

The advisory services were delivered to projects in the Far North, Kaipara and Whangarei districts by three district-based Community Project Development Officers (CPDO), each of who applied a different service approach.

Venture Group conducted a stock-take review of the projects worked on by one of the CPDOs, who focused particularly on sustainable rural development in Northland.

Conducted by Gill Minogue, the review involved analysing a range of projects throughout the region, and then following up the activities undertaken by a number of specific organisations over the last twelve months. Gill met with the groups to discuss progress with their projects, the value of Enterprise Northland’s assistance, and to identify their intentions for the short- medium term future. The review identified those projects with potential to develop further, if provided with a second level of advisory and other services support. The review report is now with Enterprise Northland for consideration.


Anne Mattin appointed to Venture Group

April 2010

Following hard on the heels of establishing a branch in Wellington, Northland-based Venture Group has announced a further addition to its Whangarei team. The company has appointed Anne Mattin as its full-time Workplace Literacy and Numeracy tutor.

Anne worked for a number of years for Group Special Education, as a private tutor, and more recently as a Literacy and Numeracy Tutor in a large PTE. She is currently completing a two year National Certificate in Adult Education for Educators with the Manukau Institute of Technology.

Venture Group Director Tricia Cutforth said that Northland businesses were becoming increasingly aware of the link between staff literacy and numeracy, and company productivity. More demand for this type of workplace assistance, which is fully government funded, was behind Venture Group’s growth.

“While the recession hit hard in Northland, firms have really tried to hold on to their staff and upskill them, so that when things improve, they have people better able to really perform.” She added that firms were beginning to realize that literacy and numeracy was the key to better workplace communication, team work, initiative and real “thinking on the job”.

”The connection between literacy and numeracy, health and safety, productivity and profitability really starts to hit home when things get tough. Companies have finally understood that it’s better to reduce costs by reducing waste than by reducing staff.”

Anne will be taking over from Jill Hartles, who is now leading a Northland Chamber of Commerce–led project for Venture Group.

Jill is working with a sample group of six Northland farms on a year-long project to improve their workplace productivity. The project will be evaluated by the Department of Labour with a view to seeing what improvements can be shared with both other farms and small businesses in sectors apart from agriculture.

Tricia states that, after a “dire year” last year, Venture Group is positive about the future, in particular exploiting the connection between its Wellington links and work in Northland. “We’re busy giving Head Offices bright ideas to pilot in Northland”, she said.


Venture Group begins Workplace Productivity project with Northland farmers

March 2010

We have been contracted by the Northland Chamber of Commerce to work on an 18 month long, workplace productivity project with a group of farming enterprises in Northland. This is being funded by the Department of Labour.

We’re excited about the opportunities this contract offers - it will utilise Venture Group’s range of skills, add value to other projects occurring in the primary sector, and deepen understanding about the links between skills, productivity and profitability.


Venture Group establishes Wellington base

January 2010

We are pleased to announce the establishment of a Wellington base for Venture Group. Neil Shaw hasbeen appointed as Venture Group’s Wellington-based research consultant. Neil comes to us from Ekosgen in the UK, a specialist economic development andregeneration consultancy, where he was a lead consultant in the Learning and Skills sector team and an Associate Director of Ekosgen’s Sheffield branch.

Neil has over 20 years experience of project management and project advice in the UK, including directing significant studies combining quantitative and qualitative research for the Learning and Skills Council, the network of Sector Skills Councils, Regional Development Agencies and the TUC.

We are very happy to welcome Neil to the Venture Group team, and we’re pleased to be able to offer a Wellington-based service to our national clients.


Venture Group expands its Workplace Literacy and Numeracy services

December 2009

Venture Group has been contracted by TEC to provide a fully funded workplace literacy and numeracy service to companies. We are the only Northland based organisation eligible to access this funding. The contract enables Venture Group to work alongside employers, employees and ITOs and together seek ways to support training, strengthen health and safety procedures and lift productivity.

If you’d like to find out more about our workplace literacy please contact Jill Hartles at jill@venturenz.co.nz


‘Honouring Seniors’ Oral History project formally launched

November 2009

The formal handover of the first eight completed interviews for the Honouring Seniors’ Oral History project, undertaken by Venture Group, will occur at an event at the Whangarei Public Library on the 26th November. With funding from Creative Communities, NZ Community Trust, and the Australian Sesquicentennial Gift Trust for Awards in Oral History, the project has captured the stories of people ‘born and bred’ in rural districts around Whangarei. Click here to learn more...


Venture Group completes evaluation project in Niue

October 2009

Venture Group has just completed a review of a Department of Inland Revenue tax reform project in Niue. This project was part of the Halavaka ke he Monuina Arrangement (for a Programme of Strengthened Cooperation) between New Zealand and Niue put in place by Helen Clark, then Prime Minister of New Zealand, after Cyclone Heta hit Niue in 2004. The Government of Niue requested the assistance of New Zealand’s Inland Revenue Department to implement reforms within their tax system. Click here to learn more...


Kaipara Community Outcomes report released

September 2009

A recent Venture Group project has just been launched by the Department of Internal Affairs. A Journey through Kaipara: telling the story of the Kaipara Community Outcomes Steering Group is a resource about collaboration among multiple agencies working on complex issues.

Venture Group wrote the document and was involved in the consultation with key people involved in the Kaipara Community Outcomes Steering Group. 'A Journey through Kaipara' is a web based resource and is available to view and download from the following link: www.communityoutcomes.govt.nz


2009 trip to Cuba – totally bueno!

10 happy participants on the Venceremos Cuba 2009 tour returned to New Zealand at the end of February 2009, loaded down with cigars, rum, Cuban art, heaps of photos, and innumerable memories of their 18 day, behind the scenes trip.

The group – with co-leaders Tricia Cutforth from Venture Group (Cuba work brigade 2005 - 06) and Diana Burns (regular Cuba visitor and Cuban Spanish speaker) spent their first 10 days based in Havana, and then travelled through Cuba - via a number of towns and cities - to spend a few days in Santiago, before flying back to Havana for a final night.


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