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Flexibility the key to employment – insight into youth development

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected business in different ways, including impacting employment rates across the country. According to a recent report from Statistics New Zealand*, unemployment rates for men actually fell for the June 2020 quarter. However the same could not be said for women. Unemployment rates for women rose in the same period, and the number of women who want to work but can’t find employment (known as the under-utilisation rate) has increased to almost 15 percent. Astonishingly, around 60 to 70 percent of those who lost jobs during the height of the pandemic were women.

Hawke’s Bay local Sarah-Jo Barley is on a mission to increase employment opportunities for wahine in the district. Three years ago Sarah-Jo founded The Development Hub, an organisation that offers training and support for women looking to enter or return to the workforce. She says a lot of The Development Hub’s work is about helping participants find the confidence to value their own inherent skills and abilities. “We help our participants to understand their ‘why’, to think about how they can achieve their personal goals and identify the skills they already have. We also work hard on creating support networks and tools that are with these women into the workforce, and support them once they are working,” she says.

Part of The Development Hub’s approach is to find suitable employment opportunities for their programme graduates. “We often contact businesses who are seeking new staff and work through different flexible employment options. For many women, flexibility is really important as it means they can balance family and work commitments.  A lot of the wahine that come through our programme have young children and can’t work a standard 9am to 5pm 40-hour week. By being flexible, employers can access a whole new base of skilled and willing candidates who can offer real value,” says Sarah-Jo.

The Development Hub helps employers access funding for training and development, ensuring those placed in roles also have an opportunity to grow their skills. “Employers put our participants through the same interview process as other candidates, so they are judged by the same standards. We know we’re doing a great job when our wahine successfully land the job they want, and when employers return to us for more candidates. The Development Hub places over 80 percent of our candidates into employment and we are immensely proud of these wāhine. Our graduates go on to become loyal and reliable team members that deliver incredible outcomes for the businesses they work in,” says Sarah-Jo.

Recent Development Hub graduate Rawinia Sullivan has recently taken on a customer coordinator position at Switched on Housing, a lead contractor for Housing New Zealand. “Before I came to The Development Hub I was really shy,” says Rawinia. “On the first day of the course they asked me to stand up in front of the class and introduce myself. I was so nervous! But then I looked around the room and realised that everyone was there to help each other,” she says.

Rawinia says her time at The Development Hub helped her clearly articulate what she could offer an employer. “During the interview I was able to talk about my knowledge of the community that Switched on Housing support. I knew I would be able to talk with customers in a way that they could connect with. And although I didn’t have on-the-ground experience, I told them that I was really keen to learn” she says.

Switched on Housing was able to offer her flexible working hours, meaning Rawinia could balance work and home commitments. “I was quite nervous about asking for flexible hours but they were really good about it. My manager understands that my son is important to me and that I’m a mum as well as a team member. It’s such an awesome place to work – my team is great and I love my job,” says Rawinia.

Sarah-Jo says Rawinia’s success story is one of many. “We’ve now partnered with over 50 Hawke’s Bay businesses to support their staffing needs, and have successfully worked with over 400 candidates. What we’re seeing is that when employees are treated well and supported, they work hard and are immensely loyal to their employer. It’s a real win-win outcome” she says.

*Source: https://www.stats.govt.nz/information-releases/labour-market-statistics-june-2020-quarter

For more information contact Sarah-Jo Barley
sarahjo@thedevelopmenthub.nz or call 022 368 8771

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