The huge success of a pilot programme featuring rural mayors connecting youth in their regions with local small businesses has led to it being scaled up around the country, across 23 more councils.
A collaboration between the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs (MTFJ) and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), the MTFJ Community Recovery Programme has helped rural councils assist small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) with recruitment, training and subsidies, to help them take on young workers or those who have been displaced due to the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. The programme will provide up to $500,000 per rural council to create a minimum of 50 sustainable employment positions.
“The pilot was a real success across the first four councils, and that showed us it could work right across the country,” says MTFJ Chair and Ōtorohanga Mayor Max Baxter.
“Partnering with MSD is a big win for the Taskforce – it’s an endorsement of the work we’re doing and the belief that we have, that mayors can successfully connect youth and businesses. This programme has big net benefits not just for youth, but for our entire country, both socially and economically.”
The Minister of Social Development, Hon Carmel Sepuloni said it was great to be extending this programme with confidence, knowing that these partnerships had good success, with the MTFJ well connected to the needs of their own communities.
“This programme is one part of our all-of-government approach, connecting employers and the people looking for work, and with a particular focus on young people not in education, employment or training.”
“We know that young people in rural communities may have limited access to skills development – for example getting a driver’s licence to improve their chances of getting a job, and this is something this funding can support.”
The programme focuses on NEETs, an acronym for young people not in education, employment or training. At the forefront of redundancies due to Covid, the number of young people under 30 seeking unemployment support has rising from 4.1 per cent to 6.5 per cent, twice as much as those aged 30 to 64 between the months of February and April 2020.
“Young people in rural communities tend to have limited access to services and skill development opportunities, for example, accessing a driver licencing facility, which is a barrier to employment.”
The high cost of youth unemployment impacts the potential contribution to economic growth and development in New Zealand. Not only do the impacts of youth unemployment result in a loss of income, but also in ‘wage scarring’ which studies show is when a young person experiences unemployment early in life, it reduces their probability of future career prospects and potential earnings later in life.
“This is an exciting new partnership between local and central government that will deliver real benefits to our rural regions in their Covid recovery,” commented LGNZ President Dave Cull.
“It is in everybody’s best interest to support young people into employment. When young people succeed, so does the entire country.”
MTFJ holds a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Government, which outlines the joint intention to achieve better employment outcomes for young New Zealanders and the recognition that barriers to employment are best address at a local level. The MOU is signed by the Minister of Employment Hon Willie Jackson, the Minister for Building and Construction Hon Jenny Salesa, the Minister for Youth Hon Peeni Henare and supported by MSD and other Government agencies.
“Small businesses generate 28% of New Zealand’s GDP and employ over 600,000 people, accounting for 29% of our workforce. When small businesses succeed and have confidence, they increase employment opportunities and overall income levels.” Baxter concluded.