YOUth Inspire

Over the last four years a Lower Hutt organisation, YOUth Inspire, has supported over 400 young people into employment and over 200 into training or voluntary work.

And they’ve told their funders, the Todd Foundation, Ministry of Social Development and Hutt City Council, that their return on investment is $12.00 for every dollar spent.

YOUth Inspire is a community-led organisation established in 2014 by a group of people who met over a cup of coffee to talk about what could be done to help with youth unemployment in Wainuiomata.

They’d heard about Mayor Dale William’s programme in Otorohanga, went up there to find out more and came home and set up YOUth Inspire – at first working entirely on a voluntary basis.

It was Todd Foundation funding that got them off the ground and helped them find a way to address the problem.

The foundation funded a group from YOUth Inspire to go to Auckland and see how the COMET programme Licence to Work was operating at a local school. Then, when the YOUth Inspire team said that’s what they wanted, the foundation funded four Pathway Coordinators to attend the COMET training.

Ali Black is the Manager of YOUth Inspire. She says that while it was obvious that the Youth Employability Programme, Licence to Work was exactly what they needed they had to think about how they could deliver this programme to rangatahi who are 18–24 years old, rather than through a high school programme.


“Clearly we could not run the course over a year, like they do in schools,” she says, ”but we did think it would work as a 13- week programme, with two half days in the classroom and 2 days’ work experience. So that’s what we do and it works well. I think we are the only NEETS organisation delivering Licence to Work. The other programmes are all run within schools.”

Like all Licence to Work programmes the course builds on developing seven core soft skill competencies: positive attitude, communication, teamwork, self management, willingness to learn, thinking skills (problem-solving and decision making) and resilience.

There are seven staff at YOUth Inspire: a manager; four coordinators who run the 13-week programme and work one-to-one with the young people; a support person, who does everything from running the young people around to administration; and a business relationship coordinator.

YOUth Inspire only works with young people aged 18–24 who are not in employment education or training, because, says Ali, they want young people to remain at school. “Some of them come to us through word of mouth or they might be referred by organisations such as Work and Income. This year we are working much more closely with our secondary schools – asking them to identify young people who might need our support when they leave school.”

While the programme started in Wainuiomata, it now has opened another office in Naenae, which covers the northeastern areas of Lower Hutt.

In the last twelve months, about 250 young people enrolled with YOUth Inspire, and 30–40 have been actively engaged in the Licence to Work programme.

“They enrol with us by filling out an application form,” says Ali, “and that gives us an idea of their literacy and comprehension, then they have a one-to-one discussion with one of our Pathway Coordinators looking at what work they might be interested in and finding out what’s going on in their lives. Before they start the programme we have two weeks with them, building relationships and getting them engaged. The few that do drop out usually do so because there are other things happening in their lives.

“The whole programme is all about building trust and letting our young people know that we care about them, that we’re not there to judge them, we are there to support them. A lot of the young people have many complex barriers to employment, so it is important that we work with other organisations who can provide expert support for these young people. Whatever is required, we find a solution.”

“Sometimes they are not ready to work with us, and that is OK. We always leave the door open.

“If the young person agrees, we work with whānau. It is very valuable it the young person is getting support at home.”

YOUth Inspire now has connections with over 200 businesses and organisations throughout the Hutt Valley. They find employers are keen to join.

Phil Dobbin from the Clarksons Electrical office in Petone is one of the employers who is supporting YOUth Inspire. The decision to join was partly, Phil says, to increase the company’s public profile. He talked with Ali, let her know what they wanted and employed 23-year-old Clayton Tipene as a labourer laying cables. Soon his supervisors were suggesting the company took him on as an electrical apprentice. As Clayton had no NZQA credits, that seemed a big jump, so Phil talked with the head of department at Weltec who said – if he wants it enough, we’ll get him through. And that was two years ago.

Clayton’s pleased: “They got me several interviews and this is the one that I was interested in. They really helped me find what I really wanted.”

Phil’s pretty happy too and so is the company. They have had all the media coverage they had hoped for. The research on the return on investment certainly helped.

Ali says that as well as getting good publicity and confirming that they are meeting international best practice, the research provided them with useful suggestions.

“The reviewers noted areas where we could make improvements, such as providing more opportunities for young people to get driver licences. Not being able to drive can be a massive barrier to employment. We were doing it, but not well enough, so once again with the support of the Todd Foundation we visited the Puketapapa Community Driving School in Auckland and we are now establishing a similar programme.”

Courtney White (Te Atiawa) is one of the four Youth Pathway Coordinators. As well as helping to facilitate the 13-week programme she has 20–30 young people that she contacts every day. ”You have to keep them engaged,” she says, “or they may slip through the cracks.” She knows: “I was one of them once. I have walked in their shoes.”

Letitia Mokomoko (Whakatohea) who went into the programme in June has just started a job she enjoys in a Queensgate shoe shop. As well as giving her all the tools to get a job (CV, interview skills, knowing what clothes to wear) Letitia says that the programme has given her confidence, the ability to talk with different people and a willingness to ask for help if she needs it.

The kaitiaki of YOUth Inspire is Lower Hutt Mayor, Ray Wallace: “I am very proud to be the kaitiaki of YOUth Inspire. Our young people are our future leaders and role models, so it’s important to help young people into the workforce as well as supporting them to develop the skills and experiences they need to be successful. I’m so proud of the work YOUth Inspire does with our young people – the programme is making a real difference here in Lower Hutt.”

This article was published in the ACE Aotearoa Spring Newsletter 2018.