Amidst the current debate over amalgamation and the value of a regional approach to community and economic development, a Hawke’s Bay consortia led by the Youth Futures Trust has succeeded in pushing our region to ‘first cab off the rank’ status in a trades training and employment programme.
Late last year Hawke’s Bay was the first region to meet with officials from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment who were delivering the good news that funding would be provided over a three year period to support a boost in training and employment for Māori and Pacific young people between 18 and 34 years of age.
That funding was approved in response to a proposal coordinated by the Hawke’s Bay Youth Futures Trust, which saw a consortia representing industry, iwi, Pacific leaders, local government, the Ministry of Social Development, and education and training providers come together to work on the project.
This latest trades training initiative builds on two key pieces of history in this area: Māori trades training which flourished in the late 50s, 60s and 70s, and which many still talk about nostalgically as being the makings of the Māori economy and of many Mäori; and the current Māori Trades Training programme in Christchurch focused on an updated version of the original model, and designed to supply skilled employees for the Christchurch rebuild.
This programme is led by Ngāi Tahu in conjunction with the Christchurch Polytechnic and other key organisations in the region.
While there is nothing new in trades training aimed at Māori, and now also Pasifika, what is new is the fact that the government have decided to roll the model out across the country, with Hawke’s Bay’s proposal receiving special attention for its depth and breadth. In addition, our region was also noted for the consortia partners obviously being on the ‘same page’ with regard to their mission in this space.
That mission is a deceptively simple one. As the economy recovers, and as the Christchurch and Auckland building projects take off, more tradespeople will be needed in those areas, which will in turn put pressure on employers in Hawke’s Bay needing the same skilled workers.
Alongside this, Hawke’s Bay statistics show that while unemployment is dropping, young people, and particularly Māori and Pacific youth are overrepresented in the unemployment statistics.
Potentially Hawke’s Bay has the ability to plan for a new group of tradespeople to meet employer demand, while providing the opportunity for training and employment for a group whose potential is not currently being realised.
So what’s the plan? In a nutshell, the Hawke’s Bay programme, named Te Ara o Takitimu (signifying pathways for the Kahungunu and Pacifica descendants of the great waka that came from the Islands) aims to provide training leading to managed transitions to employment for up to 150 young people a year for the next three years. While training of Māori and Pacific in the trades is currently ongoing, this project aims to address the gaps and take some innovative approaches to issues that are consistently raised in this space.
Employers tell us that they want workers who are ‘work-ready’, not just trained in a skill set. Work-ready under this definition includes such basic things as punctuality, politeness, work ethic, honesty, and ability to work in teams.
Māori and Pacific communities tell us they want high quality, sustainable jobs for their youth, preferably via higher education. Māori and Pacific youth tell us they want a job. So the role of Te Ara o Takitimu is to recognise these differing views of the world, and navigate young people with the support of their communities through the path from recruitment, to training, to transition to apprenticeships and employment, and crucially, keep in touch with them for the first months of employment to support both the employer and the employee in the workplace.
It’s not only potential employees who need to be work-ready. There is also a need to support employers to take on workers who they traditionally may not have looked at for a number of reasons, including perceived ‘fit’ in the workplace and lack of work experience on the part of the young people currently out of work. The consortia approach will focus on the skills and attitudes that are required by employers, if the trades industry is to diversify to meet the changes in the supply and demand market.
As with any new initiative, there have been teething problems at the contract stage, as the government agencies in Wellington grapple with a new approach to funding that doesn’t fit the current norms. Key people within EIT and the Youth Futures Trust have been working with the agencies through these issues. As I write, we anticipate signing contracts for delivery in April.
That hasn’t stopped various consortia partners getting on with it, however. Using its current funding, EIT is already trialling a new approach with a group of young Māori and Pasifika. The aim is to instil leadership competencies, lifeskills and workskills within a new approach to trades training that includes intensive team building retreats along with academic and practical studies.
So far, all trainees in this group have attended non-compulsory as well as compulsory elements of this programme. Family support is critical, with family members being included in key events and at critical transition stages. Tutors are giving up their out-of-work time to make this work. Potential employers will be encouraged to take on mentoring roles to help build employees of the future who will add real value to their workplaces. It’s a team effort.
Driving to work
Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated (NKII) has also not been idle. Passionate advocates of the need for all young people to gain their full driving licences to assist with their employability, there are already moves afoot in the region, supported also by the Ministry of Social Development, to take an intersectoral approach to funding this very important and – for some – very expensive exercise.
Those of us with teenage and older children will know the effort, logisitics and money required to attain a full licence these days. And that’s just for the lucky young people with families in work and with access to transport. This area of work, along with the partnership between Taratahi Agricultural Training and NKII, is another example of work underway already within the wider regional project.
The trick in all of this will be leadership and coordination across a region spanning from Tararua to Wairoa, and fair sharing of the funding available to recognise the various activities of those involved.
The Hawke’s Bay bid is complex – but its potential is also huge if we can get it right. If it works, it will be a timely example of how a regional approach to a vision can look, and will provide lessons for all of us in the meaning of true partnership which is focused on outcomes for our region, rather than for each of our individual institutions.