"Mana in Mahi" has quite the ring about it. Those wise old fathers of Muscular Christianity would no doubt heartily approve of the concept. Strength – and dignity – in work.

There's a slight overtone of the old Nazi slogan "Arbeit macht frei" – work sets you free – but, hey, who doesn't think it's a good idea to get young people off the dole and into work?

As those wise old Christian fathers would agree, the Devil finds work for idle hands and even if young people don't turn to crime to top up their state benefit, lacking purpose and meaning in life is disastrous for anyone.


The only time I've come close to despair was when I was let go from one job and didn't have another one lined up immediately.

The fact that I was responsible for providing not only for myself but for my young daughter was an added pressure and the three days I had between gigs were the longest of my life.

The concept of not having a job to go to terrifies me. I think it's because I come from peasant stock. My ancestors weren't lolling around on silk cushions - they were out there tilling and toiling, hefting and hauling.

These days it's a lot harder for young people to leave school and go straight into a job, especially if school wasn't really their bag.

Not everyone is made for sitting still and soaking up information, then regurgitating it at exam time. And if you don't aspire to a tertiary education, there are limited roles available. The Government is hoping that its Mana in Mahi scheme will fill a gap.

It's designed to encourage employers to take on young apprentices. Taxpayers will pay the equivalent of the dole to employers if they take on a young person, aged between 18 and 24, who has been on the dole for longer than six months.

The employer must top up the allowance to at least the minimum wage and help them to achieve a Level 4 qualification, like an apprenticeship.

The programme will be rolled out in phases – at first 40 young people and two employer groups, then 150 by next year and ultimately 4000 young people, gainfully and productively employed.


It's a grand idea. Being out of work can sap people's motivation and confidence. And the stats show that the longer you're out of work, the more difficult it is to find a job.

This isn't a work-for-the-dole scheme, the like of which Shane Jones was touting as a means of getting his lazy nephews off the couch. And a good thing too.

Putting kids to work on mindless tasks with no career path ahead of them in return for a pittance simply doesn't work. Mana in Mahi is offering young people the chance to get ahead in life doing something they enjoy.

Downer Construction, which already has a similar scheme in place, reports that it's been phenomenally successful for them. Kids who come to them with extra challenges are supported and encouraged holistically. If they don't turn up for work, for example, their mentor will go to their home and make sure everything's OK.

In return, Downer gets engaged, motivated employees and their churn rate has plummeted.

If Mana in Mahi works, and Downer Construction says it does when done properly, that's got to be a win for everyone.