Young people from many Hokianga communities have jumped at the chance to build hands-on emergency services skills in a training programme that kicked off on Saturday.
Thirty-five young people applied for 18 available places on the Hokianga's first opportunity to host the four-week national Youth in Emergency Services (YES) programme, the most received in the three years that the programme has been running in Northland.
"The nominations have come through schools and support service agencies, who have put forward the young people in their communities who could benefit from the experience," said Shona Morgan, spokesperson for Northland's YES co-ordinating work group.
The young people began their hands-on training with St John and NZ Red Cross, learning triage, basic first aid and disaster ground-based rescue, last weekend. By the time the programme is completed they will have experienced the work of a number of other key local emergency services, including the police, Coastguard, NZ Fire and Rural Fire.
Emergency scenarios and an exercise based on a mock disaster will be among the programme features.
Ms Morgan said the programme was designed to strengthen the connection between young people and their communities. Previous programmes had resulted in a positive change in attitudes within communities towards the emergency services, and stronger relationships between participating agencies.
As well as encouraging a more active participation in their local communities, the programme also helped participants develop useful practical skills, and encouraged them to volunteer.
"Participants from previous programmes in Northland have gone on to become Fire Service volunteers, and it's a great entry into what a career in the emergency services could look like. It also enables a greater appreciation from the communities themselves about the value and contribution their young people can make," she added.
At the conclusion of the programme participants would attend a graduation ceremony, with their families, and would be offered the opportunity to volunteer for two months with the emergency service of their choice.