A jobs placement cum Covid recovery programme run by the Central Hawke’s Bay District council was awarded the Martin Jenkins Excellence Award for Economic Wellbeing at the Local Government NZ Conference in Palmerston North last month.

Central Hawke’s Bay District Mayor, Alex Walker accepted the award. Speaking to BayBuzz, Walker said every rural council in New Zealand received up to $500,000 to run these programmes via a nationwide initiative called the Mayors’ Taskforce for Jobs. But what made Walker’s taskforce efforts such a success was that it was built on existing community services, she said.

Jobs in Central Hawke’s Bay – Turanga Mahi ki Tamatea – has exceeded targets for employment outcomes since its inception last year, despite flying in a headwind of pandemic-related challenges. As of this week it has placed 351 people into employment or training, from a total of 749 referrals. Nearly 50 local apprentices are attending weekly workshops, and the team is in regular contact with a network of over 770 local businesses.

“What this programme did was it knitted together a whole lot of existing community action and it’s been a real team success. The local Central Hawke’s Bay college and their gateway programmes that take graduates into work environment, an active youth development network and an active driving licensing scheme that is removing barriers [to work]. We built on that talent that was already in the community.”

Another service the programme provided, when needed, was life coaching on issues like punctuality and clear communications for people “struggling with confidence to engage in the workforce on a regular basis”. 

This 3-minute video describes the programme.

The beauty of the programme, Walker said, was having the freedom to design it in the context of the local community. 

Walker is quite passionate about what local government could achieve when it was independent of but on the same page as Wellington, and said the council had worked to speed things up with the Ministry for Social Development (MSD) as the country was emerging from the 2020 lockdown.

Despite being youth focused, it is also a lifeline for the ‘Covid displaced’ – people who lost their jobs due to the economic pressures of lockdown.

At that time, a major drought was affecting Hawke’s Bay farmers, and on top of this they were having a lot of trouble finding staff. The jobs programme was able to find people to help with feeding out and other farm jobs. 

Education was another area where the team was able to place people. Teachers aids were in short supply and educators needed help with online learning – some job seekers that were referred to the programme even went on to train as teachers as a result. And along with apprenticeships in a wide range of sectors, there were also entrepreneurs who received assistance starting up. One of them, a cleaning service, is now employing people.

“We were able to go to the people when the MSD was not available due to lockdown. The task force for jobs was available and it was a really important part of that ‘kanohi ki te kanohi’. We have a van and coordinators who are actively in community. Locals helping locals face to face.”

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  1. Meanwhile core services are suffering, potholes all over the roads, patchwork solutions. Our council is full of fakery and unfortunately not unique. %16.8 rate increase over the next two years is putting many pensioners under stress. While the council executives line up for photo opportunities.

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