For the last five years Far North teenagers have been given the chance to gain hands-on emergency services skills, and challenge themselves, through the Youth in Emergency Services (YES) programme. This year it's Doubtless Bay's turn.

Northland's YES co-ordinating work group spokesperson Shona Morgan said there were still up to six places available for 16 to 18 year olds. Participants could be nominated by their school or any adult from the community. Nominations go to Ms Morgan at shonam@nrc.govt.nz

The five-week programme will begin on Saturday May 19 with training in firefighting and use of rescue tools by Fire and Emergency New Zealand. In the remainder of the programme participants will be learning triage, basic first aid and disaster ground-based rescue from St John and NZ Red Cross, followed by water rescue from Surf Life Saving and search, navigation and rescue from the police.

The highlight of the programme is a combined exercise involving a disaster scenario, requiring the teenagers to draw on all of their new-found skills, judgement and teamwork.

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At the end they will attend a graduation ceremony with their families, and will be offered the opportunity to volunteer for two months with the emergency service of their choice.

YES, funded by the Ministry of Youth Development, has so far given the opportunity to learn emergency skills to more than 80 young people in Northland. Within the Far North, the programme has previously been in run in Kaikohe, Kawakawa/Moerewa and the Hokianga.

Ms Morgan said the goal was to strengthen the connection between young people and their communities. Previous programmes had also resulted in a positive change in attitudes within communities towards the emergency services, and stronger relationships between participating agencies.

As well as encouraging more active participation in their local communities, YES also helped participants develop useful practical skills, as well as encouraging them to volunteer.

"Participants from previous programmes in Northland have gone on to become Fire and Emergency and Coastguard volunteers, and police recruits," she said.

"The programme provides a great insight into what a career in the emergency services could look like. It also generates a greater appreciation within the communities themselves about the value and contribution their young people can make."