A new pilot programme headed by the Mayors' Taskforce for Jobs (MTFJ) and the Ministry of Social Development will be connecting Ōpōtiki small businesses with local young people.
The programme, part of the national response to Covid-19, will provide assistance for small and medium businesses to overcome some of the barriers to taking on local rangatahi, covering costs of things like recruitment, training and transport.
Ōpōtiki Mayor, Lyn Riesterer said it was fantastic to be chosen as a pilot region to make the most of the programme and to help shape it to successfully roll out elsewhere in the country. Along with Ōpōtiki, there are three other councils that will be hosting a pilot programme in their areas: Central Hawkes Bay, South Wairarapa and Rangitikei.
"This is a fantastic chance to get our local NEETS (young people not in employment, education or training) into meaningful employment. That is the big win.
"On the other side of the coin, we expect that it will make a difference for some of our smaller businesses that are sitting on the fence – not really sure about whether they want to invest in a new staff member or not. This pilot specifically focuses on some of those obstacles – helping out with training costs or employment and hiring costs," Mayor Riesterer said.
The MTFJ intends to expand the programme nationally under the governments Wellbeing Budget 2020 to include up to 23 rural councils for the programme. While the pilot is funded through several central government agencies, the work is being led on the ground by MTFJ and Ōpōtiki District Council.
"The Ōpōtiki District is in a strong place to weather the storm of COVID-19. We have a strong primary sector and some exciting infrastructure projects already underway. Some of our local contractors are hiring and building their capacity and new work is coming on line very quickly.
"But, in economic downturns like this, it is the young people who are disproportionately affected and this is reflected in their higher unemployment and underemployment figures. Add to that, Ōpōtiki's long history of young people leaving the district to find work and further education and the recent school-leavers can feel squeezed out of the workforce.
"I'm excited to see the MTFJ taking a lead role in this pilot that will form a strong part of our recovery. This is a clear and practical solution that will create employment outcomes for our district," Mayor Riesterer said.