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Innovative programme bridges employment gap

Carl Roberts, right, and John Monu, on the Wainuiomata Hill pedestrian cycleway
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Carl Roberts has a fulltime job with Downers, and a bright future, thanks to an innovative Lower Hutt programme that connects local youth with employers.

After the Stokes Valley man left Taita College in 2016, he lost motivation to keep job-hunting after several rejections. He had been hoping for supermarket or labouring work.

His Work and Income case manager recommended YOUth Inspire, a not-for-profit trust whose supporters include the Ministry of Social Development, Todd Foundation and Hutt City Council.

Carl, 19, has never looked back and says YOUth Inspire has changed his life.

Carl’s youth pathways co-ordinator was Attila Va’a who put him through YOUth Inspire’s 12-week Licence to Work course where participants are taught the importance of cultivating a positive attitude, developing good communication skills, self-management and resilience.

YOUth Inspire then put Carl in contact with Downers via Allied Workforce. Carl is now a fulltime civil labourer, after completing a 90-day trial.

He loves working outdoors and is enjoying learning new skills and the problem solving aspect of the job.

Currently, he is working on a major cycleway-pedestrian walkway over the Wainuiomata Hill.

His supervisor at Downers, John Monu, says Carl is their first employee through YOUth Inspire. He says Carl is learning new skills on the job and improving his fitness.

Downers have a second employee through YOUth Inspire who is on the 90-day trial.

Carl says he now has goals in life – a driver licence, a car and saving towards a house.

“It’s definitely helped my other goals. I’m now progressing in life and can do much more than before,” Carl says.

YOUth Inspire has changed Carl Roberts’ life. With him are Downers supervisor, John Monu, left, and Attila Va’a, right, his youth pathways co-ordinator

YOUth Inspire is helping him to set up professional driving lessons as a restricted licence would be useful on the job.

His advice to other youth is try as hard as you can to get a job. He recommends YOUth Inspire as it changed his life.

Carl says that without his job he would still be at home playing computer games.

Bridging the gap

YOUth Inspire began in 2014 and bridges the gap between school and employment. It has helped more than 400 Hutt Valley youth into work.

As the YOUth Inspire website puts it:

“We all started somewhere. That first foot in the door was all you needed. Now it could be your turn to open it for someone else.”

Ali Black has been the manager of YOUth Inspire for the past two years.

She says YOUth Inspire was formed after a group of Lower Hutt community leaders, mostly from Wainuiomata, determined to do something for unemployed young people and were inspired by the concept pioneered by Dale Williams, former mayor of Otorohanga.

The YOUth Inspire vision was one of care wrapped in aroha. The team began working closely with the local community and schools to help youth – many facing added challenges of deprivation – into jobs.

It’s all about preparing youth for the workforce,” Ali says.

YOUth Inspire has its offices in the community hub in the centre of Wainuiomata and also in Naenae.

Ali says Wainuiomata is a strong community with a lot of really good people.

The Wainuiomata Community Hub is home to YOUth Inspire staff, from left, Shannon Nichols (admin support), Courtney White (youth pathways co-ordinator), manager, Ali Black, and Shannon Seiuli (youth pathways co-ordinator). A further three staff are based in Naenae.

Overcoming challenges

She says the best part is watching the positive changes in young people – seeing them believe in themselves, their confidence built and finding success in employment.

She feels the education system points students to university yet 70 per cent of them don’t go there.

Challenges for youth include literacy and numeracy skills, limited knowledge about job searching and interviews, not knowing what employability skills are required for a job, needing a driver licence, and also the level of support from their home environment.

Through YOUth Inspire, some participants will look into options for training courses. For others their plan might include becoming drug free. That’s an important factor as many employers require pre-employment drug testing.

Ali says the programme looks at each participant on a holistic basis and to determine any barriers they may have to further education, training or employment.

YOUth Inspire has cultivated good working relationships with a number of potential employers.

Part of the integrity around this is positive disclosure (no surprises), to support participants when they are employed, and to also support their employer.

“The hard thing is to keep the new employees in the job.

“It is important the new workers feel valued and that they are given training, are able to ask questions and become an important part of the team,” Ali says.

Another of YOUth Inspire’s goals is to lift household income and to influence positive changes to potentially take a family out of poverty.

Ali hopes that as the profile of YOUth Inspire increases, it will become more visible and bring more youth to it.

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For more information:

To go to the YOUth inspire website click here

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