Helping young people into work

Standing behind the counter at Riverstone Kitchen are (from left) Mayor Gary Kircher, employee...
Standing behind the counter at Riverstone Kitchen are (from left) Mayor Gary Kircher, employee Diana Flores (18), owner Bevan Smith, employee Paige Hacquoil (17), Waitaki MP Miles Anderson MP and employee Zayden Newton (17). PHOTO: WYATT RYDER
A local employment programme is succeeding at finding diamonds in the rough and keeping them in the district.

That’s what Riverstone Kitchen owner Bevan Smith said on Monday at a Mayors Taskforce for Jobs meeting at the restaurant, which works with the programme.

The initiative helps young people aged 16-24 into work placements. It is funded by the Ministry of Social Development, and run at a local level by councils around New Zealand.

Mr Smith said traditionally young people would move away to learn at polytechnic, but would then work there instead of coming home.

The real strength of bringing young people in early was the chance to draw out the best in them and keep them working in the region.

"They can stay in the region and get an education."

It had employed about five workers through the programme.

The truth was many of them had not had jobs before and lacked both technical and social skills, but after about six months they really started to flourish.

"This industry can’t help but bring you out of your shell."

It was also a chance for young people to see if the industry was right for them, which was important.

The process was slow, but highly rewarding, he said.

Zayden Newton, 17, is one of the new employees.

He said he had "no clue" what he wanted to do when he finished school, but had always been interested in cooking.

He enjoyed working in the kitchen — his favourite thing to make was salad — and now planned to pursue it as a career.