By Mike Dinsdale
New training pathways have opened up for young people in Whangārei with a training academy set up in part with Government funding.
In September last year, the Government's Provincial Development Unit announced that Taimahi Trust would get a grant of up to $995,000 to set up a training academy to support 30 people aged 18-25 with intellectual disabilities and/or high social needs into employment in horticulture, hospitality and social care.
The Taimahi Trust Board appointed David Hovell - Ngāpuhi/Ngati Porou - as general manger and the academy is ready to go, with training opportunities already lined up in horticulture.
''It's been a long time getting everything right, but we've got the right people and a good team together to provide some exciting training opportunities.''
Hovell, who has experience in supply chain, financial and commercial roles, as well as leadership roles in the not-for-profit and disability sectors, was excited that the hard work was about to pay off, with the first intake of trainees planned for July.
"People living with a disability are grossly overrepresented in New Zealand's poverty statistics, and that's largely a result of the significant barriers they face when seeking employment in the traditional, competitive job market,'' Hovell said.
"Taimahi Trust's purpose is to create long-term, meaningful jobs for young people with disabilities, to enable them to integrate into society and live their best lives. We'll do that by identifying needs in the community and setting up employee-centred micro-enterprises to address those needs.
''For example, right now we see an opportunity to get fresh, healthy kai into more households so that's where we're starting. The training academy will support the work we're doing by equipping young people with the technical and life skills they need to transition from school or unemployment into the workforce.''
He said what makes Taimahi Trust different is the way its micro-enterprises will be built with specific employees in mind.
''As well as employing our graduates in our own micro-enterprises, we'll also work with local businesses to find suitable placements," Hovell said.
"I've been amazed by the amount of support for the project. For example, Whangārei residents Murray and Robyn Crawshaw and Kylie and Fiona Newton have generously made their hothouses available to us. The hothouses will be used to teach our trainees a range of horticulture skills including how to set up and maintain a hydroponic system.
''Once established, the hothouses will supply fresh vegetables to our commercial kitchen and other micro-enterprises. The location for the commercial kitchen itself is still unconfirmed and we hope to be able to make an announcement in the coming weeks."
The training academy's first intake of up to 10 trainees will be in July, with further intakes planned for February and July next year.
Taimahi Trust was started in 2017 by Rachel Hill and Alison Faithfull, who bought a coffee cart to employ their sons who have Down Syndrome.
For more details check out www.taimahitrust.org.nz.