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Eastland Group backs new initiative to help youth be ‘work ready’

THE Tairawhiti Economic Action Plan released last week made several references to the youth-based initiatives of the region’s economic development agency as a way to grow the economy here.

And one of the region’s major players has signed up to be part of it.

The 54-point action plan’s inclusion of the Youth Employment Strategy and related initiatives, and the Licence to Work programme, recognises the importance of youth and youth employment in growing our economy, says Activate Tairawhiti economic development project manager Kim Holland.

“Developing and growing our local talent is an essential part of our economic development as a region.

“The Licence to Work programme embeds the Employability Skills Framework — focusing on those ‘soft’ skills that employers are looking for, and that enable our young people to develop lifelong employability skills.

“This is not just the ability to get a job, but also to keep a job, and to build resiliency.

“The Youth Employment Strategy and a number of initiatives are an integral part of Action 8 of the Economic Action Plan (Growing our people), as we recognise the need to develop and build our local talent,” Ms Holland said.

“We need to connect our young people to training and employment opportunities locally, to understand the career pathways available to them.

“We have significant job growth over the next two to five years covering some of our key industries, and we need our young people to develop the skills that our industry needs to grow our economy.”

Ms Holland said employers involved in the programme, which provides work experience opportunities that lead to training, apprenticeships, internships and employment for young people, saw it as an investment in both their business and in the region’s young people.

“The Licence To Work programme provides a link between young people, education, training and most importantly — employers. Young people need meaningful work experience opportunities to develop employability skills in a ‘real world’ work environment.”

Speaking at the action plan launch, Eastland Group chief executive Matt Todd acknowledged the work Activate Tairawhiti has done in bringing the initiative to the region, adding he believed it would make a significant difference to youth and participating businesses.

“Eastland Group employs over 100 people full-time across the port, network, generation and at our head office.

“We encourage young people’s careers in a number of ways, including offering several engineering tertiary study scholarships, contributing to an annual accounting scholarship, offering internships across the group to university students each summer, and supporting the Youth in Emergency Services programme.

“And, every year, we have a number of jobs available for young people, whether they’re university graduates or school leavers. We’ve seen many examples of young people coming into our business, adding value and working their way up to more senior positions.

“Participating in the Licence to Work programme is an obvious fit, and I believe will add real value to our organisation . . . .We have a focus on making it happen for our region, and a deeply-held belief that people are what makes it all happen.

“I also believe it’s our responsibility to be involved. It takes a village to raise a child, and as a good corporate citizen it’s important Eastland Group helps to support the future employability of our region’s young people.”

Mr Todd credited port services manager Dean Craw for ensuring Eastland Port was on-board with the programme from the very beginning.

Mr Todd said general manager people and performance Jarred Moroney would oversee the roll-out of the programme across the whole Eastland Group.

“With our very diverse network of roles across Eastland Group, we can offer the region’s young people real-world experience, and a taste of different career paths they might want to take,” Mr Moroney said.

“I believe that opportunities for young people have become more limited, partly because employers are worried about perceived barriers to taking young people on. This is not the case.

“We need to encourage young people to be exposed to as many job opportunities and experiences as possible, so they develop confidence and crucial employability skills, and make the right choices for their future.”

Ms Holland welcomed Eastland Group’s increased involvement as an important step for the expansion of Licence to Work in the region.

“Eastland Group already offers many fantastic opportunities for young people, from scholarships to internships, and it’s a great vote of confidence that they’ve come on board with Licence to Work.

“They can offer a wide variety of work experience options for young people, and I hope that their example will inspire other local businesses to get involved,” Ms Holland said.

Matt Todd