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Extra support in Covid year

Trust Tairawhiti and the local Regional Business Partners (RBP) team have been on hand to offer support in what has been a difficult year for many businesses.

The RBP network is funded through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and delivered by Trust Tairawhiti, with extra support in this pandemic year provided through business growth advisers Wendy Gatley, Malcolm Mersham and Ryan Christison who have been able to utilise the RBP Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund to support local business owners.

This funding has connected firms to expert advice at no cost to the business. Advice covered topics like business strategy, finance and cash flow, continuity planning, HR and employment relations, digital services, marketing, and health and wellness for owners and staff.

The business growth advisers supported around 350 local businesses in the period from April-October 2020.

Two major themes have emerged in Tairawhiti. First, many businesses needed advice with cashflow and revising cashflow forecasts. Second, many employers had to deal with changes to working conditions and restructuring employment contracts. The RBP programme was able to offer advice and support in these areas.

“It is fantastic to see so many businesses in-region end the year in good shape. We wish all these businesses well over the festive season, and look forward to a less challenging 2021,” Wendy Gatley said.

Though government financing for the Covid fund has finished, the RBP business growth advisers will continue to support local businesses to grow via the RBP network.

On top of that, Trust Tairawhiti is expanding its workforce development programme from the successful Licence to Work initiative and is employing two workforce co-ordinators.

“The intention is to develop local potential employees comprised of unemployed and youth not in education, employment or training (NEETS) and place them into sustainable jobs which are available within Tairawhiti,” Trust Tairawhiti commercial general manager Richard Searle said.

“Trust Tairawhiti is working with its CARE (Commitment, Action and Reciprocity leading to Employment) partners to build out the initiative. CARE has representatives from industry, iwi and government agencies who are collectively looking to support development opportunities.

“Currently Tairawhiti has 6.3 percent of our workforce unemployed compared with 4.1 percent nationally. We also have about 1300 15-24 year olds in the region who are currently not in employment or education, which provides an opportunity for economic growth if the challenges of training and pastoral care can be resolved.

“The fulfilment of local jobs by local employees avoids exacerbating the housing shortages and enhances our regional wellbeing as it will have positive effects on our ohanga (economy), hapori (communities) and tuhono (relationship) muka in particular.

“A key element of this is actioning the Workforce Development Plan which is due for release at the end of this year. The plan is initially focused on priority sectors of horticulture, forestry, tourism and civil construction. These sectors continue to grow and support our post-Covid economic recovery and have many jobs which are currently unfilled.

“The first employment co-ordinator starts with Trust Tairawhiti in early December and will be getting out and about meeting with stakeholders ahead of the new year.”