It has only been two months since a programme focused on supporting youth into jobs started in Whangārei - yet it has already had an impact on the young people involved.

WYS START, a Whangārei Youth Space programme which helps young people aged 15 to 24 become work-ready and find sustainable employment, began in July with its first intake of 10 young people.

Brandon Edwardson, team leader of WYS START, said some of the youth on the first intake had some struggles but it had been heart-warming watching their growth so far.

"When we first got this intake they were all shy, they were disengaged, they weren't talking, they wouldn't shake your hand.

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"Now - a couple of months in - they will meet and greet you, they will look you in the eye, they will engage with potential employers and when you take them to job interviews and networking they will hold a conversation with their head held high."

Brandon Edwardson, team leader of WYS START, said it has been heart-warming watching the youth on the programme grow. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Brandon Edwardson, team leader of WYS START, said it has been heart-warming watching the youth on the programme grow. Photo / Michael Cunningham

The WYS START programme will support 10 young people during each six-month period, a total of 40 young people over 2.5 years.

The programme has received $880,000 over two years from He Poutama Rangatahi.

It is underpinned by one-on-one mentoring and pastoral care by kaiārahi (navigators) who will help the rangatahi become work ready. There is also an emphasis on whānau involvement.

"We base the first part of the programme around ko wai au: Who am I? Where do I come from, where do I fit in to my community and what does that look like? Then we develop a programme specifically around them and their needs."

For example, if a young person has identified they're struggling with drug and alcohol they will be supported with a drug and alcohol counsellor. If a young person struggles with reading and writing, they will be helped with that too.

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The youth will also receive support in a range of other areas including preparing documents like a birth certificate, obtaining a driver licence, and writing a CV and cover letter.

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"Most importantly, everything we do is about what they can develop as a person that's going to benefit them in the long term. Those personal development skills like problem solving - if I've had a bad day how do I not take it out on my boss? - are so important."

Edwardson said the first intake of youth have also earned their first aid certificate, were involved in Daffodil Day collections, and spent the day in Ruakākā picking up rubbish for Keep New Zealand Beautiful Week.

"For them it was 'why am I doing this?' But you're contributing back to the community, you're learning skills and the skills you have learned you can put on your CV."

WYS Start kaiārahi Neville Tohu and Maggie Naera, WYS Start team leader Brandon Edwardson, and kaiārahi Kath Mase. Photo / Michael Cunningham
WYS Start kaiārahi Neville Tohu and Maggie Naera, WYS Start team leader Brandon Edwardson, and kaiārahi Kath Mase. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Once the youth are in employment they will continue to be supported for the next two years.

Edwardson said they have started talking with employers who are willing to work with the team and take on the young people.

"This programme is huge. There are a high percentage of NEETs (not in employment, education or training) and what we're doing is incorporating relationships between the whānau, potential employer and young person."

The next intake will be in January.

• If you know someone who could benefit from WYS START, or if you're an employer interested in working with the team and taking on youth, email Brandon on brandon@youthspace.co.nz