Wellington businesses are working with a community group to combat rising unemployment among Maori youths.
Maori unemployment rose from 12.8 per cent in June to 15.1 per cent in the three months to September, more than double the national 7.3 per cent average.
Around a quarter of all teenagers aged between 15 and 19 years in New Zealand are unemployed, making young Maori one of the most high risk groups for joblessness.
The Te Taiohitoa o Te Awe Young Champions mentoring programme run by non-profit Te Awe Maori Business Network matches Wellington students with participating local businesses for work experience and mentoring.
Now in its second year, the programme has 20 young Maori from schools including Wellington Girls', Wellington East Girls', St Catherine's, St Mary's, Queen Margaret and Wellington College taking part.
Project manager Mel Harrington said the programme helped students develop a strong work ethic, increase their self esteem and secure casual and part-time work. The programme teaches reliability, presentation, communication, conflict resolution and is "a bit of a reality check" about the workforce.
Some young Maori she spoke to found the workforce "a bit daunting". They were not taking the right subjects at school to gain them entry into desired courses of higher education and others lacked confidence, depending on their background and the level of support they had at home.
Te Arawa and Ngati Pikiao young Maori woman Pearl Carty is taking part in the programme and feels positive about her job prospects.
In year 12 at St Catherine's College, she has one more year of school left before embarking on tertiary studies to become a nurse.
She talked to the nurses who cared for her late grandmother and she knew she wanted to become a nurse after taking a first aid course.
"My mum and my dad both like the idea of me being a nurse and so do my grandparents, they think that I should embrace it," Miss Carty said, adding that she loved working in her part-time jobs, serving food at Westpac Stadium and doing "the odd cafe work".
The 17-year-old student lives in Happy Valley with her mother, who stays home to care for the youngest child in the family who is 3-years-old, and her father who works as a steel placer.
The Te Taiohitoa o Te Awe Young Champions mentoring programme also engages with the students' families.
"We give them career tools they can assist their children with, around homework et cetera . . . it is very much a collective effort, they can't really achieve on their own. They need the support backing of their family," Ms Harrington said.
Rydges Hotel in Featherston St in Wellington supports the programme, taking on seven young people to work in a different area of the business for one day each month. Te Awe Maori Business Network management committee member Paul Retimanu's own catering business also takes on students as casual staff.
Wellington East Girls' year 12 student Kimi Whiting, of Te Whanau Apanui, has been placed at Rydges Hotel. "It's great experience, I have learnt that it is important to put customers first and to ensure their needs are met."
- The Dominion Post
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