Mayor's job initiative big safety net

Bryan Cadogan.
Bryan Cadogan.
Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan has a personal mission to have every person aged under 24 in the district, in work. South Otago reporter Hamish MacLean finds out that this crusade has had other benefits as the district recovers from a series of significant job losses.

Jobs initiative aims to maximise youth potential

Bryan Cadogan doesn't describe it as all good news.

But because of the success the Clutha Mayor has had addressing youth unemployment in the district, he was able to mitigate what could have been a disaster for Clutha from large-scale redundancies in recent weeks.

Southern Cross Forest Products was placed in receivership on March 3, and after its receiver decided to close four Otago mill sites, the Ministry of Social Development reported 180 workers had been made redundant.

On Friday, April 25, the Otago Daily Times reported 79 workers were being made redundant, of those 39 did not have a job after the weekend.

Mr Cadogan organised a job search expo in Balclutha for Southern Cross's redundant workers the next week: 39 attended, he said, along with 25 employers from the area.

From the expo, 21 people got jobs and five decided to retire.

Three job expos have been held, in Balclutha, Milton and Dunedin, attended by 153 people.

Of those, 80 redundant workers had already found work, 35 at the expos.

Many have either taken retirement or started full-time study. Job applications are still being processed, but the ministry is calling the response, to what could have been a crisis, a success.

''I don't want to trivialise the fact that there was a lot of pressure on families and there is still some, but overwhelmingly we have mitigated against the worst of the impact,'' Mr Cadogan said.

Mr Cadogan has been building relationships with the employers of his district for the past four years in an employment initiative for youth, fulfilling a goal of having every person aged under 24 in the district, in work.

Through his role as the chairman of national network the Mayors Task Force for jobs, he has started the local initiative Ready, Steady, Work.

He teamed up with Telford: a division of Lincoln University, the ministry, and some of the district's employers and started a programme four years ago that aimed to get unemployed young people into work.

He said Ready, Steady, Work had potential to reach full employment for 18 to 24-year-olds in the Clutha district.

In its first year, 30 young people from the district showed up twice a week for five weeks to take part in the course, which taught them nutrition, fitness, life skills and introduced them to employers.

Of that 30, 27 left the course with a job.

The Ministry for Social Development is targeting youth unemployment, regional commissioner John Allen said, adding: ''If you leave school and go on a benefit, there is a very, very, very high likelihood that you will remain on a benefit the rest of your days.''

Hamish Maclean

 

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