As the number of young people out of work increases year-on-year, Blenheim teenager Michael Jamie is a local success story. He tells Ian Allen how fulltime employment has changed his life.
Getting stung by a bee might not be a plus for most people, but for 19-year-old Michael Jamie, keeping his new job depended on it.
And, in week two of working, a sting on the shoulder without an allergic reaction meant he had passed the test.
It's now been about five months since the Blenheim teenager started working for third-generation beekeeping family J Bush and Sons.
Being taken on through Work and Income's Job Ops subsidy meant his boss, Murray Bush, could get some assistance with wage costs and with an obligation of six months employment, Murray had time to train up his new employee to full capacity, and test his suitability for the work.
However, Michael was thrown in at the deep end when Murray had to take time off because his mother was ill.
"I honestly think a lot of kids in the same situation would have walked out the door, but Michael just sucked it up and did the job very well," he said.
Michael said it was a job he never contemplated doing, but one he finds interesting and rewarding.
"I've grown up a lot," he said. "When school finished, I didn't have any idea about what to do. I sat around at home. I wasn't that confident and I didn't like to get out of my comfort zone at all. I'd be the one hanging on the edges of a conversation – not joining in; nothing to talk about."
With financial independence, new confidence, and a real understanding about what employers expect of staff, Michael says life and his future are looking up.
"This job has opened my eyes about how lazy I had been," he said. "It took me a while to understand what was expected from me as an employee, but everyone here has been very forgiving about the mistakes I have made as I learn."
With his first pay cheque, Michael bought his mum some birthday earrings.
"She's had a lot to put up with, and you should never forget your mum," he said.
Michael has so impressed the bosses, Murray and Peter Bush, he is now a permanent employee of the J Bush and Sons team. His savings mean he can move into his own flat and be independent.
"When we took on Michael under the Job Ops programme, I didn't do it to get a `cheap' employee," Murray said.
"I hoped he would do well and stay on. Michael was a quick learner, interested and had initiative. If he hadn't had those qualities, we wouldn't have carried on employing him. He came to us with a bit of work experience, the motivation of the LSV course [a six-week Limited Service Volunteer development course at Burnham military camp near Christchurch] and the subsidy which allowed us to see how he would go."
Murray's advice to young people looking for work is to show employers they are keen.
"They need to get out and knock on doors. They might get a lot of rejections, but they need to keep trying. Even if they can only get a short-term or part-time job, it's worth doing. Employers appreciate people who prove they want to work, are prepared to do the hard yards, and don't expect to get it all on day one, he said.
The number of unemployed people aged between 18 and 24 in Marlborough increased from fewer than five in the years ending June 2007 and June 2008 to 62 in the year ending in June 2010 and 71 in the year to June 2011.
The Job Ops programme has been rebranded Job Ops with Training and provides employers with a $5000 subsidy to provide employment opportunities to young people aged 16-24 with low or no skills or work experience.
- The Marlborough Express
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