Surely things aren't so dire in Southland

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 23/08/2014
Southland Times photo
ROBYN EDIE/FAIRFAX NZ

HOME STYLES: Invercargill hairdresser Karla Braun loves her job at Karma salon in Windsor.

Southland Times photo
IAN MCGREGOR/Fairfax NZ
GREENER PASTURES: Southlander Dylan Patterson moved to Christchurch, where, he says, there are more opportunities.

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When 19-year-old Maddy Familton packed up her belongings and headed north, she vowed never to return to Southland any time soon.

Familton has moved to Christchurch to study to be a teacher.

She is one of scores of young people leaving the south each year to take up opportunities they say don't exist in the south. But there are also hundreds of others staying in the south, languishing without jobs or training.

While Southland's youth unemployment figures compare well to the rest of the country, the figures are still too high, agencies say.

Unemployment for 15 to 19-year-olds sits at 16.1 per cent in Southland against 26 per cent nationally and 9.9 per cent for 20 to 24-year-olds compared with 13.7 per cent nationally.

But a new report from Venture Southland says there are jobs here. The problem is they are mostly in the primary sector, not always high on the priority list for young people.

Venture Southland enterprise and strategic projects group manager Steve Canny said the challenge was steering school leavers, trade and tertiary graduates to the vacant roles.

Figures show an ageing population and structural changes in Southland will result in 11,478 people leaving jobs within the next 10 years - that's creating a possible 1150 jobs each year.

"It's unacceptable to have 16 per cent of 15- to 19-year-old people unemployed and nearly 10 per cent of 20- to 24-year-olds not in the work force when the jobs are there," Canny said. Worryingly, unemployment among young people in Southland was rising, he said.

There needed to be a regional approach involving schools, training providers, Government agencies, industry bodies and employers working together to highlight the career options for young people. Appropriate training and qualifications had to be provided to fill the jobs that were available.

The Southland Regional Development Strategy report found young people were being trained for the wrong jobs. Barriers including a rural and urban divide, disconnected system, limited pre-work training options, low employer human resource skills had to be overcome, the report says.

Too many young Southland workers were still leaving for what they believed were greener pastures, Canny said.

"There are opportunities for young people from Southland and New Zealand to head to other regions or overseas for opportunities," he said. "However, the study showed most young people would prefer to live, train and work in their local area."

For Familton, developing opportunities in different areas of expertise was the key for Southland retaining its young population. While she could have completed her teacher training in Invercargill, she wanted to "get away and have a change".

It was likely she would stay in Christchurch, because she believed there were better opportunities there.

She would like to see Southern Institute of Technology better promoted. "It gets the image of being not as good as university, and seen as a last resort option."

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However, the main drawcard for young people would always be jobs, Familton said. "It comes down to the jobs again. There are just not the opportunities for young people in different areas of expertise as there is in other cities."

THE FARMER

Benmore dairy farmer Chris Withy says the dairy industry is tackling how it can make working in the industry more attractive to young people.

Changes were needed around workload expectations and, while the industry could not stop the unsociable hours, it had to look at what it expected of its younger workers, he said.

Withy, who is working with AgFirst and Dairy NZ on a dairy worker survey, said young workers were often expected to do the same hours as experienced hands but that needed to be looked at because it could be key to enticing youths to the primary sector.

"The dairy industry lumped 16- to 20-year-olds in the same block. It had them working 11 or 12 days in a row just as much as a 27-year-old and this just broke them," Withy said.

Agriculture and farming jobs often fell off the preferred jobs list when youths reached year 13, despite regularly topping the list among year 10 boys, he said.

"We need to ask, what has changed?"

THE HAIRDRESSER

Hairdresser Karla Braun says she loves what she doing and making people feel good about themselves.

"I started my first after school job at Karma about six years ago, making coffees, sweeping floors and shampooing.

"I never really knew what I wanted to do for a living, but when my boss offered me an apprenticeship, I accepted it.

"Now I'm qualified, I can't picture myself working for anyone else.

"I love working in Invercargill because, as a small town, everyone is so friendly.

"It's welcoming, and you can give and receive compliments or even just a smile when you walk down the street.

"Young people job hunting in Southland need to realise you have to start from the bottom and work your way up. If you don't know what you want to do for a career, try different things on work experience or do a STAR course.

"There are lots of opportunities down here.

"People sometimes think the grass is greener on the other side, but that's not always the case."

THE WORKER

For 19-year old Southlander Dylan Patterson, the grass is definitely greener in Canterbury.

With the exception of ‘‘really steep rent’’, the building apprentice said he was happy with his decision to move to Christchurch, which he said gave him more opportunities for work, study — and play.

‘‘There’s always something happening so, if you want to go out to a party or, now the clubs are starting to come back, you can go out to a club or a flat party.’’

Young people in Southland tended to stay home, he said.

‘‘You hung out with your friends more around a TV or Xbox instead of going out.’’

Southland needed a significant population increase and other educational opportunities to keep young people from leaving, Patterson said.

‘‘They need to not just get people to stay in Southland but they need to attract people to Southland. Because once you’ve lived in Southland for five or eight years you sort of know everyone, and you don’t meet new people really.’’

- The Southland Times

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