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New funding for youth strategy

NEW GOVERNMENT funding will support the Tairawhiti Youth Employment Strategy (YES) and its bid to turn around the hundreds 15-to-24-year-olds in Tairawhiti not in employment, education or training (NEET).

Eight months ago Nardia Paku-Pineaha was one of them. A series of challenging circumstances left the 24-year-old a single mother-of-three with no job, no qualifications and no work experience.

She was referred to the support group Activate Wahine.

“We all come from different walks of life, with the main thing in common being solo mothers,” Ms Paku-Pineaha said.

“It helps with basic skills and motivation to get out there and do training and find the jobs we want to do.”

Now she is studying massage therapy and starting midwifery part-time next year.

“It is a second chance and there are not many out there for young mothers.”

Activate Wahine has recently become involved in the Licence to Work programme.

Participants do 80 hours of work experience and 20 hours of community service to gain their “licence”.

Work experienceAlong with studying, Ms Paku-Pineaha gains work experience at Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou.

“It is an opportunity to be in a work environment, learning skills employers want, how to keep a job, stay committed, gain confidence and self-esteem, and learn time management.”

The initiatives would hopefully address the region’s high unemployment rate, she said.

“It's about time we had something like this in the region to help our young people develop.

“There are a lot of people out there who come from backgrounds of violence, gangs, suicide, drugs and sexual abuse.

“They don’t know how to break the cycle because that's the life they're used to.

“They think, ‘Why should I get a job?’ when their parents are on the dole. They don’t realise their lives are still being written.”

Social development minister Anne Tolley was in Gisborne on Wednesday to announce the $185,000 in Government funding to support YES, and its programmes like Licence to Work and Activate Wahine.

The funding is to be spent this year, and comes from a $1.8m fund contributed to the Tairawhiti Economic Action Plan over three years.

YES was developed by Activate Tairawhiti in three workshops, with more than 180 people, including employers, education and training providers, iwi, social agencies, youth representatives and officials.

“I’m really pleased to support local efforts to address youth unemployment,” Ms Tolley said.

“There are too many young people not doing anything to contribute to themselves or the region.

“It is not that we do not have the jobs — rather people ready to go into them.

“At the same time, I know some of brightest and most capable young people are here, which is where the strategy comes in, with a focus on training and developing employability skills.

“Many have grown up in homes with no structures to support employment. We have to work with those youth so they understand what it is to be employable.”

Activate TairawhitiActivate Tairawhiti economic development manager Kim Holland said it was important young people, especially those in years 7-13, had opportunities to be involved in work places and were able to connect with something they enjoyed.

The Licence to Work programme gave participants the opportunity for “a soft entry into the world of work”.

While training and apprenticeships were also good, there needed to be equity in pastoral care and mentoring with other regions.

“Out of nine industrial training organisations (ITOs), we have only two full-time training advisors. They do outstanding jobs but the other seven want to be able to help rangatahi complete apprenticeships and get qualifications.

“We need to look at how we can move this forward. It is not about signing people up to apprenticeships but about being successful.”

Eastland Group chief executive Matt Todd said it was a “natural fit” to be a business supporting the Licence to Work programme.

“It is about us taking responsibility in the community, to help Tairawhiti youth grow up with opportunities in front of them.

“We can train people, but they need the right attitude, skills and behaviour. I would like to encourage other organisations and businesses to get behind this.”

Associate Education Minister Louise Upston said the Employability Skills Framework, also launched on Wednesday, would assist matching youth with jobs.

It sets out the key behaviours, attitudes and personal qualities employers say are essential for getting and keeping a job.

“A common thread with employers is that not enough young people are skilled and work-ready.

“We need to ensure every young New Zealander has opportunities.”