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Boost for youth work strategy

“CRUCIAL” and “transformative” efforts to help more of the region’s youth find work have been given a financial shot in the arm.

Activate Tairawhiti’s Youth Employment Strategy (YES) was formalised last year, based on the findings of a series of workshops and consultations. Yesterday the economic development agency announced the Todd Foundation had agreed to provide up to $297,000 to implement key areas of the strategy over the next two years.

'Licence to Work' projectThis will include launching the Licence to Work programme, and Activate’s creation of a new role, the Tairawhiti Employability Works co-ordinator, who will implement the Licence to Work project and other YES projects.

“The key feedback from employers as part of the Tairawhiti Youth Employment Strategy was that they felt that many young people weren’t ‘work ready’ and lacked ‘employability’ skills”, said Activate Tairawhiti economic development project manager Kim Holland.

“Licence to Work will enable our young people to develop life-long employability skills, and employers will benefit from the verification of young people’s work-readiness.”

Potentially 'transformative'Todd Foundation youth and Maori strategic adviser Seumas Fantham said the Wellington-based philanthropic family foundation welcomed the opportunity to be involved in such a potentially “transformative” strategy.

“The Todd Foundation is interested in strategic, collective approaches to solving local issues. So we’re excited to be supporting the Tairawhiti Youth Employment Strategy, and the creation of meaningful employment opportunities for the region’s youth.”

Ms Holland said there had been a “high standard” of applicants for the new role from education and education-to-employment sectors.

“The focus of the role is to co-ordinate the Licence to Work programme, which has an employer focus, aiming to grow the number of employers and support them, work with organisations that have committed to the programme, and place young people in relevant and meaningful work placements.”

It was expected that the successful candidate would be announced next week.

“It is important that the right person has worked with and has a passion for youth, and has strong employer/industry, education and community networks, and the ability to get people on board.”

The Licence to Work programme requires young people to carry out a certain number of hours of community work, work experience and training modules in order to receive a certificate of “work readiness”.

In return, participating employers complete an assessment of student performance.

Local organisations committedMs Holland said local organisations already committed to implementing the Licence to Work programme included Gisborne Girls’ High School, Campion College, Matapuna Training Centre, TRONPnui and Turanga Ararau.

“We also have a wide range of local employers keen to provide valuable work placements for students, so they can gain the skills required to get and keep employment.

“They include Universal Engineering, the Eastland Wood Council and members, Eastland Port, Specsavers and Frank and Albies.”

Ms Holland said the programme had achieved excellent results in other parts of the country. All local employers interested in attracting and retaining young local employees could attend a free Licence to Work workshop on January 25, to gain an overview of the programme and learn how they can be involved.

“The programme has been piloted in South Auckland, Kaikohe and Taranaki over the past two years, but Tairawhiti is the first place to run an employers’ workshop. Other regions are following our lead and will be implementing employers’ workshops later this year.”

EndorsementGisborne Mayor Meng Foon said he believed the Licence to Work programme, and other initiatives of the Tairawhiti Youth Employment Strategy, would help reduce the number of disengaged youth, lead to higher rates of youth employment, and improve economic outcomes.

“I have no hesitation in endorsing this. It’s a proactive and well-thought-out partnership approach between industry, education and youth, which will not only benefit youth and employers but the whole of the Tairawhiti community.”

Gisborne Chamber of Commerce president Gavin Murphy agreed.

“Our region has many businesses looking to grow, but owners tell us they’re often constrained by a lack of suitable local talent. At the same time, we have a high unemployment rate, with young people eager to work but sometimes lacking the real-world skills necessary to become a valuable long-term member of staff.

“Activate Tairawhiti is undertaking crucial strategic and practical work in connecting employers to prospective employees, which will improve our region’s employment outcomes and boost our economic performance. The chamber executive congratulates Kim Holland in particular on bringing the Licence to Work programme here, and we fully endorse this initiative. We encourage our members and other local companies to get involved.”