Connecting rangatahi to employment opportunities in Ōpōtiki
3 December 2020
With a community focused on enhancing manaakitanga, and a collective of like-minded professionals
A raft of agencies and local businesses have come together to support a bold new programme in the Bay of Plenty that aims to help rangatahi find employment, training or education opportunities through ongoing pastoral and practical support.
Harlem and Josh were grateful their new boss gave them a few hours off to take part in the launch of a new programme to help at-risk young people gain employment or education opportunities.
The 16-year-olds are just a few months into their new roles installing insulation material for Acoustic Solutions North Island. They’re enjoying their first taste of employment.
“Yeah, I’m loving it, but it’s real itchy!” says Harlem.
Finding work for rangatahi like Harlem and Josh is a big part of what the new IBA programme is all about. IBA stands for Imagine, Believe, Achieve (Moemoea, Kimihia, Taea): concepts at the heart of the programme’s mission.
Targeted at young people aged 15–24 who are not currently in employment, education or training (NEET), the programme aims to develop the wellbeing and work-readiness of its participants.
The IBA programme is a new initiative from the Bay of Plenty Youth Development Trust, which was established in 2017 to help improve the lives of young people in the Tauranga area. The trust established the Tauranga Boxing Academy (TBA) as a vehicle to combine physical fitness and mentoring to support rangatahi.
It’s a vehicle that’s working well for the young people currently involved. Boxing academy member Johnlees, a 16-year-old student from Tauranga Boys’ College, is passionate about seeing his peers succeed.
“At first it was just something to fill in my afternoons, and then I started to learn more about it and I learned that it was more than just boxing – it was about family and keeping kids occupied. When kids aren’t occupied, they get up to mischief.”
Dominic, also 16 and from Tauranga Boys’ College, shares this sentiment.
“This is not just a boxing academy; for us it’s a second home – a place where we can come and learn and become the best possible young men that we can be.
“Some of the boys come from backgrounds that have been quite harsh, so when they come here they feel like they’ve found a place where they belong, a place where they can grow. I’ve watched them progress in terms of their self-confidence and social skills as well as their fitness skills.”
Both Johnlees and Dominic are eager to play mentoring roles in the new IBA programme. The IBA programme looks to build on the success of the TBA programme, aligning itself with the boxing academy to help provide at-risk youth a pathway into employment.
In launching the programme in June, Employment Minister Willie Jackson announced a $717,000 investment into what he described as “a very important kaupapa”. The investment comes from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s He Poutama Rangatahi (HPR) fund and the Ministry of Social Development.
Minister Jackson touched on the challenges faced by some youth in finding employment.
“It’s a bit hard if dad doesn’t work, koro doesn’t work, or the family is taking a drug pathway. It’s about getting to our young ones early. It’s about getting the basics right first.”
The government funding will enable 60 rangatahi over an 18-month period to receive support through the IBA programme. At present there are only young men engaged with the TBA, however both the TBA and the IBA programme will extend to young women as well.
The need is certainly there. According to Statistics New Zealand, in 2019, 13.8 percent of young people in the Bay of Plenty were in the NEET category.
Kaitohutohu (advisor) for the programme, Paora Howe – a former head teacher, Education Review Office reviewer, and lecturer and researcher at the University of Waikato – says the IBA programme will be for youth who are at risk. He says says a number of TBA members come from challenging backgrounds.
“Quite a lot of the kids are at risk in one way or another. Maybe 60–70 per cent of the kids have only one parent, usually a solo mum. Some have left school because they haven’t really succeeded in the schooling system – and they’re floating.”
The programme essentially takes a wrap-around approach, tapping into the expertise of the staff involved, partnering with local employers and working with a range of agencies to provide the necessary pastoral care and practical support for rangatahi to help engage them in ongoing and sustained employment or education.
The programme takes a flexible approach and its duration can vary depending on the needs of each young person. Typically, the programme takes around 12–18 months, beginning with a 13-week pre-employment process, which incorporates the development of individualised learning pathways, work experience and community projects.
Weeks 13 to 26 are focused on specific work experience opportunities and obtaining entry-level skills relevant to their chosen workplace. The next phase is about providing a successful transition into employment or alternative education with ongoing post-placement support.
Throughout the journey is a focus on developing life skills, addressing negative behaviours that might impact on success, including those relating to drugs and alcohol, violence, abuse or trauma and celebrating positive attributes of each young person. The programme has a psychologist on board to help participants and their whānau access the support they need.
General manager of the programme Rebecca Roe says it’s about taking an individualised approach with each person who walks through the door.
“It’s about finding what inspires them and what pathway they’re seeking – whether that’s employment, or further education and employment, or even going back to school,” she says.
Essential to any good outcome is first understanding what each person needs, then utilising the collective knowledge and expertise of the people delivering the programme along with that of supporting agencies and employers.
“When we talk about those employability skills, it’s all encompassing.”
It’s about things like turning up on time, understanding how contracts work, knowing how to handle a difficult conversation with an employer, she says. Things like looking someone in the eye when you shake their hand, learning and using people’s names. Even things like eating healthily, getting enough sleep, dressing appropriately.
The programme recognises that NCEA levels may be needed to meet employers’ requirements and efforts will be made to help young people complete the qualifications they need and build their literacy and numeracy skills.
Without these skills, a young person can struggle on a day-to-day level with things like filling in contracts and setting up a bank account.
“A common issue recognised by employers is that young people can sometimes be too embarrassed to discuss this with an employer and will instead revert to avoidance. It is also our job to ensure we educate how to have ‘brave conversations’ with employers about these things.”
Rebecca says preparing young people for the workplace also involves increasing their understanding of what it means to be an employer: that running a business is often the result of hard work and commitment and not without challenges to overcome. Increasing respect and understanding can help build that relationship with their employer.
It also gives young people something to aspire to.
Take Jake Pyne, for example. Jake is the director of a local business You Know We Ain’t Ltd, best known for its popular clothing brand Lower. As someone who struggled with school and then went on to build a successful business, Jake is keen to give the programme participants a sense of what might be possible for them to achieve.
“I want to invest into the kids who have had it hard, or they simply just struggle at school. You are not dumb because you don’t slot into the system. It probably just means you’re an entrepreneur! With a good attitude, a bit of hard work and determination, you can do anything,” says Jake.
Jake is a strong supporter of the IBA programme. In addition to providing bespoke Lower T-shirts and hoodies for the participants, he is keen to take an active involvement in their progress.
It’s the support of employers like Jake that will have an influence on the success of the IBA programme. Many local businesses have also come on board as sponsors and employer partners.
The initiative is also supported by local Iwi and a raft of agencies including Oranga Tamariki, the New Zealand Police, and the Ministries of Education, Social Development, and Business, Innovation and Employment.
Tauranga businessman Craig Nees, who has been instrumental in driving the trust forward in his role of chair, says the shared vision and collaboration of all the different stakeholders has helped get the IBA programme off the ground.
“For a long time I’ve been increasingly aware of the growing gap between families with resource and families without resource and the effect that has on young people. And I had the opportunity to put something together.
I’ve been very lucky in terms of the collaboration I’ve had with other agencies. The people we’ve got on board are all very passionate.”
One of those people is programme facilitator Andre Jay the former primary school teacher is passionate about making a positive difference in people’s lives.
Andre says that in addition to supporting the participants into employment or education pathways, the programme is about providing a place where they feel safe and supported.
“This is their home; this is their family,” he says. “This isn’t just a quick fix – we’re in it for the long-haul with these kids and their families.
“Getting the families involved is so important. Whānau are a big part of this,” he says.
Andre says whānau are always welcome at the boxing academy. He also hopes to bring everyone together through things like community working bees.
Providing a sense of belonging is important. Minister Jackson said it shouldn’t be underestimated how life-changing it can be when rangatahi embrace te reo Māori and learn about their whakapapa.
The combined emphasis on tikanga Māori and the programme’s core values is powerful. The IBA programme and the Tauranga Boxing Academy share the same values: Manaakitanga (kindness), Takohanga (responsibility), Whakaute (Respect), Whakapono (trust) and Manawaroa (resilience).
“The values are in Māori, which really touches me,” says Johnlees.
What will be the indicators that the IBA programme is working?
While there are targets to be met in terms of getting rangatahi engaged in employment or education, Paora says the true success of the programme will be measured beyond finding placements.
“We’re talking about attitudinal change. Using the ‘Teach a man to fish’ adage, we want to train them to be like fishermen – so they can then train the younger ones. I think you’ve got a higher degree of success with younger kids.”
Andre agrees. “We are embarking on a journey of changing lives and I can’t wait to see the successes.”
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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, firstname.lastname@example.org
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