Super City to go solo with school-leavers' job scheme

By Simon Collins

Penny Hulse. Photo / Richard Robinson
Penny Hulse. Photo / Richard Robinson

The Super City plans to go it alone with a revamped scheme to help school-leavers into work or training after the Government turned down a proposed nationwide scheme.

Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, who represents Auckland on the national Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, wants to work with the region's 21 local boards to develop community-based initiatives in all areas.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has rejected the mayors' proposal for a universal scheme to track all the country's school-leavers through a centralised call centre, which would have referred young people to local services if they had not found work or training.

But she has told the new Auckland Social Policy Forum she wants to work with the Auckland Council and businesses to create jobs for the city's unemployed youth this year.

In March, 6149 people aged 18 to 24 were on the dole in the region, 3 per cent of those aged 15 to 24 at the last Census.

This was slightly below the 3.1 per cent national average for the age group because more of Auckland's youth are in education.

The Government has rolled over the current $12.7 million budget for youth transition services, covering 65 per cent of the country, for a further year from this month.

Otorohanga Mayor Dale Williams, who chairs the mayors' taskforce representing all but three of the country's 67 mayors, said he was thankful the services would continue for another year but disappointed Ms Bennett had not picked up the nationwide proposal.

"This is now the fourth year that contracts have been rolled over, so it doesn't put a lot of continuity in the market, and staff are considering their futures because they just don't know what that future is."

Otorohanga's scheme, which includes an apprenticeship co-ordinator working hands-on with apprentices and employers, has been praised by Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Mr Williams said only three people aged 18 to 24 were unemployed in Otorohanga - "the lowest in New Zealand by a reasonable margin".

Existing youth transition services cover most of West, Central and South Auckland but the North Shore or in Rodney have none.

"We are basically going to put more energy into areas that are not covered," Mr Williams said.

"We are focusing very hard with Len Brown and Penny Hulse to get some real traction for them because they probably have the biggest youth unemployment figures at the moment."

Ms Hulse said the best way for Auckland to replicate Otorohanga's success was to encourage local boards and employers to work together in each area.

"I see this absolutely as a good role for local boards," she said.

Last week, Mr Williams met Dr Stuart Middleton of Manukau Institute of Technology, who is working with local employers and high schools to train young people for a planned industrial park next to the Stevenson Group's Drury quarry, which could eventually employ 19,000 people.

Ms Bennett said she shared the mayors' passion for helping youth, but their proposal to contact every young person regardless of need "does not fit with this Government's focus on at-risk young people".

"Research shows that 85 per cent of all school leavers do not need additional support to transition into work or training and so our focus is on strengthening the existing youth transition service to better support the 15 per cent who do need intensive support to get into education or work," she said.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n4 at 10 Jul 2014 21:00:00 Processing Time: 931ms