Otorohanga mayor Max Baxter says the town’s highly successful youth-to-work programme needs an overhaul. Established in 2005 by former mayor Dale Williams, the initiative was successful in achieving zero youth unemployment for people under the age of 25 and became a blueprint for other districts to emulate nationwide.
Although still used, Mr Baxter says the programmes are no longer as successful as they once were and it’s time to revise the process. And despite some backlash after being quoted in the Waikato Times last week stating many students are leaving school “not qualified or suitably educated for the jobs that are available” he is determined to create better pathways for local youth to succeed in the workforce.
Otorohanga’s all-inclusive community programme included establishing the Otorohanga Trade Training Centre, trade apprentice co-ordinator, School Leavers Connection Programme and Gateway Skills Academy courses to ensure local employers could find young people in the town ready to work for them. Highlighting its success, 96% of all Otorohanga apprentices completed their courses successfully on time compared to the national average of 35%
“I’m absolutely full of praise and admiration for the model that was set up here nine years ago,
“But if you have run any business model for nine years and you haven’t looked at it, changed it, tweaked it or moved forward than you are effectively going backwards.
“the other thing that has brought about the revision of the youth programmes is the loss of Ministry of Social Development funding ($60,000 per year in 2013).
“That changed things considerably so the discussion is now about do we fine tune the current programmes or drop some of them if we feel they’re not working”
The council is currently in the process of identifying how the model can be modified to best suit the district’s needs while also looking for other avenues of funding.
In last week’s Waikato Times article Me Baxter said many students “aren’t work ready” when they leave school which he says was not directed solely at Otorohanga College.
He has since approached the school to clarify his statement which, as a member of the Mayor’s Taskforce for Jobs, was meant as a much broader comment about New Zealand education in general. Despite the confusion, Mr Baxter says the council is committed to ensuring youth unemployment stays as low as possible by working with and alongside the community including the college.
“The big thing we want to make sure is happening is that all parties are on the same page including the schools, tertiary providers and employers to ensure the continued vibrancy of the Otorohanga district.
“What we have to do is make it attractive for our young people to stay in Otorohanga, so they believe there is a future in Otorohanga and to continue the growth of our town.
“And discussions about how we can best achieve that will take place in the coming weeks.”
STORY BY WAITOMO NEWS