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Say yes . . . Celebrating the launch of Youth Employment Success (YES) in Waitaki and Waimate on Tuesday night are (from left) Workbridge employment consultant Sandra Familton, Confidence Can director Helen Jansen, Waitaki Boys' High School pupils Ethan Reille (16) and Lochlan Cowles (18), WaiYou! chairwoman Cara Tipping Smith and Waitaki Boys' pathways co-ordinator Andy Lane. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

Waitaki and Waimate employers are backing young people to succeed through the Youth Employment Success (YES) scheme.

Publicly launched in the two districts at a function on Tuesday night, YES is an online platform connecting young people with employers. It was launched in Dunedin five years ago, and has expanded to Marlborough, Eastern Southland, Whanganui, and now Waitaki and Waimate.

Locally, it is being run by the Rotary Club of Oamaru and WaiYou!.

WaiYou! chairwoman Cara Tipping Smith said YES was not so much about placing people in jobs, but about them finding out what was available in the workforce.

The online platform was free to use by people aged 16 to 24, and free for employers to register. Employers could offer anything from an informal meeting over coffee to site visits, work experience, mentoring, apprenticeships and jobs.

“It doesn’t have to be a job – it can just be a discussion,” Ms Tipping Smith said.

“Young people can get to see what the world of business in their town is actually like, and they get to see opportunities that they might not have thought of, and they might find out that opportunities they were dreaming of are not for them.

“The more they get, even the simplest, easiest step in the door to say ‘hi’ – that’s giving them confidence to step through the door for an interview.”

Some of the registered businesses in Waitaki and Waimate were small operations, such as Acupuncture Oamaru and Rebellious Rose, and at the other end of the scale were businesses including Canterbury Spinners Ltd and Network Waitaki.

Across the Waitaki River, the Veterinary Centre Waimate and Waimate District Council were leading the way.

Addressing the crowd at Tuesday night’s launch, Waimate Mayor Craig Rowley said it was a “win-win” scheme for both districts.

The future of any community rested with its young people, both socially and economically, but they needed support and encouragement to get ahead.

“By working together, we give young people in both districts a far greater advantage than either of us could do alone,” Mr Rowley said.

According to national education data, young people in the Waitaki and Waimate districts left school with fewer qualifications and vocational pathways and were less likely to enrol in tertiary study within a year of leaving school, compared with those in many other regions in New Zealand, he said.

“We’re more than ready to address these statistics.”

Waitaki and Waimate had already successfully collaborated on the Work Ready Passport initiative, and YES would help address additional needs.

“This programme should take a big step towards addressing the immediate community needs to more successfully transition our young people into quality work,” he said.

“It should also move towards ensuring that there are quality work opportunities to incite, attract and retain young people in our district.”

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher congratulated the employers and young people involved in the YES programme.

He encouraged more youth to take advantage of the opportunities they were being presented with, and employers to step up and partner with the programme.

Firebrand founder Bex Twemlow, who helped establish YES in Dunedin, said young people had taken up “thousands of opportunities” across a broad range of industries through the scheme over the past five years.

Employers could also learn from each other through the programme, especially ways to engage and support young people.

Before Covid-19, there had been a “significant” reduction in youth unemployment in Dunedin, Ministry of Social Development regional labour market manager Emma Hamilton said.

“It was about a 14% reduction from when we started five years ago. You can’t attribute it all to YES, but it was definitely a factor in just getting young people to understand that there is support out there,” she said.

For more information on YES, for youth or employers, visit youthemployer.nz.