Access to transport and suitable accommodation are “huge” barriers for rangatahi [young people] finding work in the Bay of Plenty, a youth centre manager says.
It comes as new data shows the Bay of Plenty has the highest rate of young adults not in education, employment or training in New Zealand.
The Salvation Army’s latest State of the Nation report showed in June 2022, 18.7 per cent - or 6500 - of 15 to 24-year-olds in the region were not in education, employment or training.
This rate is nearly three times higher than the region with the lowest rate, which is Wellington at 6.6 per cent.
Bay of Plenty Youth Development Trust operations manager Mark Inman said it ran an 11-week pre-employment programme which targeted those aged between 15-and-a-half and 24.
“A lot of these kids ... some of them just aren’t settled. It’s not so much that they’re not employable, they just need to be grounded and reconnected with who they are.”
Inman said the programme had been running for two and a half years, with about 150 rangatahi enrolling so far.
“We’re having about a 70 per cent success rate, so we’re doing pretty well at finding jobs out in the community.”
The success rate also included those who went back to school or enrolled in further studies.
After the 11-week programme, the trust offered wraparound support, he said.
“It’s kind of like a rollercoaster ride for a lot of these youths heading into work. One, they’ve never been in employment. Two, they don’t have a lot of role models at home to help them navigate some of the highs and lows of starting a full-time job or even going back to study.”
Inman said transportation and suitable housing were “huge” barriers for rangatahi moving into employment.
“A lot of the time, the bus routes don’t cater for the industrial areas at the right times.”
Inman said it would take two hours for someone to travel from Te Puke to a course in Tauranga.
“The unemployment rate for youth is a concern, but there’s certainly light at the end of the tunnel for a lot of these kids, as long as they’re willing to put the effort in and give things a go.”
Otūmoetai College principal Russell Gordon said some students felt a “burden” to support their families due to “havoc within their economic happenstance”.
“Now, that may be in paid employment, it may be to look after the kids while someone else is working - but taking more of a whānau approach to how we’re dealing with the crisis that’s befallen us.
“Add on to that the cost of living crisis; it will affect each family differently.”
Priority One workforce and policy general manager Greg Simmonds said it worked closely with local employers and the education sector to support young people with their careers.
“We also operate a skills and employment hub, Ara Rau, which helps to connect the labour supply and demand pipeline by supporting people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds into employment throughout the Western Bay of Plenty.”
Simmonds said Ara Rau focused on working with and supporting people not currently in employment, education or training.
“What we’re finding is that over the last few years, there’s been a significant uptick in young people presenting with a range of barriers which put them at risk of being left out of the labour market.
“These barriers can include everything from a lack of qualifications, transport, confidence, literacy and so on.”
Salvation Army Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit senior social policy analyst Paul Barber said the report was about looking at the state of the nation from the perspective of people on lower incomes or in marginalised communities.
“So, we’re looking at the things that make a difference for them.”
Looking at the figures of young adults not in education, employment or training, Barber said it was “striking” how big the differences were regionally.
Barber said students leaving school in the Bay of Plenty were among the “lower achievement rates” nationally.
“So you’re getting a kind of flow-on, I guess, from not completing school with at least NCEA [Level] 1 ... and that makes it much more difficult for you to move on into other training, education or employment once you’re leaving school.
Many young people also had “uncertain” living situations, affecting their education and ability to find and hold work or pursue training.
Barber said there was a “strong link” between this and the “really high rates” of those who needed social housing in the Bay of Plenty.
The report said “urgent housing” continued to be “particularly problematic” in the Bay of Plenty region. It compared the public housing register to the number of public tenancies and found the Bay of Plenty, together with the Central and Taranaki regions, had the biggest demand for public housing.
It showed there were 2025 applicant households on the housing register as of September 2022 and 2952 public housing tenancies.
“Social housing doesn’t turn over that fast. That means long waiting times,” Barber said.
He said the average wait time for a house in New Zealand was about 10 months.
Barber said it was a “real struggle” in the rental market for people due to rising costs.
“There’s a challenge ahead to make sure that we’re supporting people to try to get into private rental tenancies and look at how things like the accommodation supplement can be made to work better to help people stay in their tenancies, or even find a place so they maybe don’t need to get into social housing.”
Barber acknowledged progress had been made with an increase in welfare assistance and people’s wages rising. Additionally, the number of those on the social housing waitlist had fallen nationally by 4000 since April.
“So, there’s a real sign that perhaps we’re beginning to see some easing, but we’ve still got a long way to go.”
A police spokesperson said police worked closely with partner agencies to provide wide support to young people and their families, with the aim of deterring offending.
“There are a range of remedial options for police to use when dealing with youth offending, and the approach taken is decided based on the individual circumstances of each incident.”
Police figures showed there were 88 ram-raids in the Bay of Plenty between April 1, 2021 and December 31, 2022.
In its 2021-2022 annual report, police said many offenders were aged under 17 years old, including children as young as seven.
The offending was likely driven by a combination of young people being exposed to a negative home environment and/or disengaged from school and their communities, the monetary gain from stealing and the use of social media - particularly TikTok - to gain notoriety.
The Tauranga Salvation Army would not comment.