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Youth Employment Success (YES) was launched in the city earlier this year with the goal of finding employers offering opportunities to young people and telling their positive stories.
Now funding is being sought to roll it out to other centres and that prospect is exciting for two of the initiative’s key drivers, Ministry of Social Development regional labour market manager Emma Hamilton and Firebrand managing director Rebecca Twemlow.
"We’re quite passionate about it, it’s so positive. There’s no down side to YES. It’s a win for young people, their schools, families and employers being recognised.
"So many young people don’t know how to connect with employers in business these days. [It’s] providing an opportunity to access that and know it’s risk-free. There’s no risk of rejection," Ms Hamilton said.
YES involved the Ministry of Social Development, Otago Southland Employers’ Association, Otago Polytechnic, the University of Otago and the Otago Chamber of Commerce.
The opportunities offered were varied; it could be a job, or a chat about career progression, or the industry. It could be a mock interview, assistance with a CV or a walk-through of a business.
As well as becoming a certified youth-friendly employer, employers involved also received a resource pack containing tools to help them understand how they could further create opportunities for youth.
The response in Dunedin has delighted Mrs Twemlow; there were now 51 endorsed YES employers with a further 17 awaiting the process.As at the end of October, there were 354 opportunities on offer for young people in the city. Now, youth needed to take advantage of those opportunities, she said.
"People are freely giving their time to our vulnerable youth. I’m excited about what that means for the national roll-out and I think there’s a real opportunity for this to have a major impact on employment opportunities for youth.
"This isn’t about jobs; this is about preparing them for jobs. If we can roll this out as a national brand, imagine it ...", she said.
Ms Hamilton said the key for a roll-out was getting communities to buy into and take ownership of the initiative. That was going to be critical.
There had already been quite a lot of interest from chambers of commerce and local councils and she understood it was mentioned at the Local Government New Zealand conference in Dunedin in July.
It was very locally focused and the intention was it would still be a community-centred initiative in each location.
"It really is about your community coming together and celebrating employers and youth," Mrs Twemlow said.
She was humbled by the embracing of the initiative by Dunedin employers such as tech company Igtimi, an electronics and communications technology development house.
Its forte was specialised GPS telemetry, control and communication solutions and its systems have been used at the highest level sailing regattas.
"What’s really awesome is a company like Igtimi will offer these opportunities to youths who don’t necessarily have the skills to work [there] but they see the value in supporting the community and youth," she said.
Igtimi was one of the first companies to be contacted and, for general manager Ina Kinski, it was obvious to want to be involved.It was not something new for her, as she had been "involved in that sort of stuff for years", helping give some people guidance.
Being able to channel that and reach more people, making it more applicable through the YES campaign, was "totally obvious".
As well as the benefits for those young people, it was also good for her own staff to have a much broader view and to see that not everyone was as lucky as they were.
"It’s a great opportunity for other staff to not be in a bubble with people just like them but get a broader view," she said.
Having it rolled out nationally, she believed, was the logical next step. The networking aspect involved was also a positive thing, she said.
Ms Hamilton’s next job was to get out into schools and promote YES, to get pupils excited about it and get schools on board.
"So many employers do this sort of work in the community. This is a way of recognising them.
"One of our aims is to have Dunedin recognised as a community that embraces young people and does everything it can to support them," she said.
A function was planned in January which would be a combination of YES employers and a Business After 5, through the Otago Chamber of Commerce. It would celebrate employers and talk about the next phase of the campaign. There would also be a supreme YES employer award announced in June.
● Information about the initiative can be found at www.youthemployer.nz