REAP Wairarapa is not new to work-ready programmes. They have supported the COMET YEP (Youth Employment Programme) with schools and managed a YETE programme (Youth Education, Training and Employment) which, since it was launched by a group of concerned stakeholders in 2013, has placed more than 100 young people into training and employment.

Now, in response to Covid-19, the government has launched a new programme. It is run in partnerships with the Mayoral Taskforce for Jobs and it is for small rural local authorities: Carterton and South Wairarapa District Councils are now both funded to support young people, those displaced through Covid and those disadvantaged in the workplace into employment. Carterton District Council is spearheading the new Youth to Work Wairarapa Movement under the banner of Y2WWM (Youth 2 Work Wairarapa Movement).

The kaupapa is regional strength and local focus with community ownership and leadership – facilitating both employment and training pathways for the unemployed – as well as the skilled workers that local employers need to future-proof their businesses.

Y2WWM, which started in Carterton last year, has a governance group chaired by the Carterton District Council’s Community Services Manager Carrie McKenzie, and is overseen by REAP Wairarapa’s Education Manager, Tracey Shepherd.

Maria McKenzie, is the Project Manager:

“We are working with young people who come to us because they know we have jobs. We started in October last year. Five employers have already formally signed up and we have been working with a further 19 – with opportunities in every kind of business, from supermarkets, to construction, aged care, agricultural, administration and social services. We have a broad range.

“When the young people come to us, we start by asking them, What kind of life do you want to live? And then, What are the barriers to this? Then we bridge that gap.

“It could be that they don’t know what they want to do – they have no direction; or they don’t know how to get a job – maybe they don’t have a cv, interview skills or the right connections. Or they might have behaviours, like mental health issues, getting in the way.

“We work in collaboration with other organisations, like Dress for Success, the Connecting Communities Building Financial Capability and our own REAP driver licence programme.

“Since I started in October, we have engaged with 42 young people – slightly more young men than women. Just five are over the age of 25. Twenty-two have got jobs. Eight have gone into apprenticeships – but all of them have gone into sustainable jobs that include training and a career pathway. Three have chosen fulltime study.

“The initial assessment is about two hours. We have found that working one-to-one works best. We can run them through a series of work-ready modules, but we find that one size doesn’t fit everyone. We customise a programme for their specific individual needs.

“When they are ready to talk with an employer, I broker that meeting. And once they are placed in employment and training, we continue to provide pastoral care. We check with them regularly to see how they are getting on and whether there are any issues they need support with. Mental health issues are often the main problem. Many young people have anxiety and depression, and they often don’t have the skills to deal with daily events, like losing their accommodation, or having an argument at home. They can come and talk with us. A lot of it is learning good communication skills. We help them learn to manage these things, and to develop a Plan B.

“We also try and connect with the employer. We can help them to access MSD financial support. If they get through 90 days we can presume things are settled. We are definitely not wanting to place people into just any job. We are helping them find sustainable employment – and for businesses to have sustainable employees.”

The contract with the CDC is to have 25 young people into employment by June. With 22 in employment by the beginning of February (when we talked with them) they are nearly there.

Maria says that while the Youth 2 Work Wairarapa Movement was designed to deal with the unemployment that was expected after the lockdowns, in fact the Wairarapa economy is booming. But the programme is meeting a slightly different need – the young people who may have been expecting to travel overseas and who are now looking for work at home, or the families moving into the Wairarapa, either looking for work or coming back to be with whānau but have no local networks – these are predominantly the young people that Y2WWM is helping. Also, there is a different mindset now says Maria, “with all the uncertainty, people are wanting to be a bit more stable.”

There are now 23 small rural territorial authorities funded though the Mayoral Taskforce For Jobs.

Maddie Murrell – on track to a career in nursing
I found Maria through mutual friends. I decided that I wanted to be a nurse in year 13, but I didn’t have the right subjects. So I’ve had a few years working in various places, often short term.

When I first met Maria she helped me with a cv and suggested that I work in aged care while I wait to enrol in a 6-month entry into nursing course. She came with me to the interview at a rest home...

I start my course mid-year, and hopefully I will be able to keep my job through the time I am doing training. Maria is helping me apply for the course.

I love my job. I wouldn’t have got it without Maria’s help. She keeps in touch with me and checks in with my employers. If there are any problems she helps out. I’ve given her name to a few friends..