Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Mayor's plea: Give youth a chance

Businesses challenged to give young workers a chance as foundation and council pledge millions to cause.

Israel Aumua, now 19, got his start in the workplace from Geoffrey Luxmoore at MiTek. Photo / Greg Bowker
Israel Aumua, now 19, got his start in the workplace from Geoffrey Luxmoore at MiTek. Photo / Greg Bowker

Auckland employers will be challenged today to give young people a chance by hiring a young unemployed person.

A business "summit" hosted by Mayor Len Brown will hear The Warehouse founder Sir Stephen Tindall pledge $1.85 million from his Tindall Foundation over the next three years to continue a Youth Connections scheme he helped start two years ago.

Mr Brown will pledge $3 million for the scheme over the same period from supportive local boards and the Auckland Council. He will also promise to increase the council's cadets from 10 to 20, and its new graduate intake from 17 to 50, from next year.

"We'll be challenging the business community, as it starts to grow, to take our council's lead and take on board cadetships and young graduates and do everything possible to ensure we are giving our young people a sense of hope," he said.

The "summit", the first of three planned this year in what Mr Brown calls a "youth employment traction plan", comes as figures show a dramatic halving of young European and Asian Aucklanders who are not in employment, education or training (NEET), from 10 and 11 per cent at the end of 2012 to just 5 per cent at the end of last year.

But the city still faces a huge challenge to provide work or training for young Pacific and Maori people, who together make up 28 per cent of the city's 15- to 24-year-olds.

One in every six Pacific youths (17.2 per cent), and even more Maori youths (18.5 per cent), are at home or roaming the streets with no employment. Those numbers have come down from 21 per cent a year earlier as the job market recovers, but both groups are lagging behind the gains for European and Asian youth.

The new plan aims for a gradual uplift in local board and council funding of Youth Connections, which employs "youth connectors" in 10 of Auckland's 21 local board areas to link unemployed young people with employers.

The scheme started in 2012 with Tindall funding totalling $335,000 a year in four of the eight local board areas with above-average youth unemployment (Mangere-Otahuhu, Maungakiekie-Tamaki, Henderson-Massey and Whau), and in Puketapapa.

Auckland Airport Community Trust ($115,000 a year) and the Hugh Green Foundation ($75,000 a year) funded the scheme in Otara-Papatoetoe and Papakura.


Auckland mayor Len Brown will pledge $3 million for the scheme over the same period from supportive local boards and the Auckland Council.

Three other local boards used their own funds to join the scheme in Rodney, Kaipatiki and Hibiscus and Bays. Two boards with above-average youth unemployment, Manurewa and Waitakere Ranges, have not yet joined.

Manurewa deputy chairman Simeon Brown said his board did not want to take an "operational" role but wanted to explore ways of supporting local agencies already working with unemployed youth.

Punt on young worker has paid off, says boss

East Tamaki boss Geoffrey Luxmoore took a punt on young Israel Aumua - and, for once, it has paid off.

Mr Luxmoore, manufacturing manager for building supplies business MiTek, admits: "I haven't had a lot of success with people that young as employees.

"Quite often they lack that work ethic."

But his managing director Richard Poole, who chairs the Greater East Tamaki Business Association, hosted Sir Stephen Tindall speaking about the council's Youth Connections scheme at a business breakfast early last year.

"Richard said, 'The next person we take on is going to be a young person from Youth Connections'," said Theresa Rorason, the scheme's South Auckland "youth connector".

Mr Luxmoore rang her that afternoon to offer a position for a young worker in the MiTek warehouse.

Ms Rorason visited the site to see the kind of work involved, and matched the job with Mr Aumua, who was 18.

She also arranged for him to be mentored in the job by former Commonwealth Games swimmer and Outrageous Fortune star Kirk Torrance, whose day job is mentoring young people who have been through a two-week work preparation course run by the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, Cadet Max.

This time Mr Luxmoore was happy with his new recruit.

"He had a good attitude right from the start," he said.

Mr Aumua was used to getting up early to work. For years, he has helped his parents run a fruit stall at the Mangere market. But when he left Otahuhu College with NCEA level 3, he had no luck finding other work.

"I applied online but I didn't get any interviews, except I went to a call centre interview in town and I didn't get it," he said.

His cousins told him about the Cadet Max course, but he had to get on a benefit to get into it and Work and Income had turned him down because he lived with his parents.

"I had to go and live with my cousin to get on to a benefit," he said.

Even then, it took a chance conversation with a generous member of the public to start making the connections he needed.

"I went to take my grandfather to the doctor's," he said.

"There was a lady there called Jane. She got me to go and talk to Rebecca, who works for Best Training in Manukau. And that's how I met Theresa."

It was the very afternoon that Ms Rorason met Mr Luxmoore.

"Rebecca messaged me to say, 'I've got this lovely young man, would you consider him?"' she said. "So I said, 'Bring him in'."

On the web
www.youthconnections.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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