Getting lift off – insight into youth development programmes

To counteract concerns the job market would get harder for its rangatahi (young people) following the Covid-19 outbreak, they fast-tracked plans to create jobs themselves and LIFT Business on Emerson Street, Napier, was born.

This retail hub, supported by council and charitable funding, opened its doors in August selling products made by LIFT’s rangatahi ‘clients’ or their broader whānau. Part of the shop is set aside for running a screen-printing business, while out the back rangatahi with business ideas work through business modelling and skills courses with staff.

“This is literally the only initiative like this in New Zealand,” says LIFT founder and director Jody Hamilton. Fledgling businesses are already hatching. One 22-year-old participant has launched a domestic cleaning business with help from LIFT Business. “She came back in to us on Thursday because she needs to hire someone now. It’s brilliant,” she says.

“Even within our retail hub we’ve hired seven people to fill retail associate and screen-printing jobs, who were all unemployed before. Five of them had never worked before in their lives,”
says Jody.

This proactive attitude is what got LIFT started in the first place. The statistics on job prospects for Māori boys in Hawkes Bay, did not impress Jody. With a young son herself she wanted to do something about it and in 2017, LIFT Youth Employment began.

A key part of its success is its Bounce Programme, which teaches rangatahi about how their brains work, communication style and integrity. They learn their pepeha (self-introduction) and about their turangawaewae (where they come from), as well as employer and employee expectations.

“This culminates in the graduation at the end of the two weeks, where they present a plan of where they want to be. It includes personal and professional goals and that’s what we use as the basis of working with them. Then we do whatever it takes to deliver that. It’s transformational,” Jody says.

Many will have been involved with the criminal justice system, so LIFT spends time working with various services to help their clients get on track towards their goals. Others may need help with getting their driver license. “We tend to be receiving through our doors what other people think are the most disadvantaged and unruly kids in the area. But everyone has dreams and aspirations, even these rangatahi deserve the right to chase them,” says Graeme Ewart, in charge of LIFT’s business development.

LIFT uses a reverse marketing approach – establishing what the rangatahi want and then finding an employer that fits, rather than the other way around. It’s getting results. LIFT exceeded the employment target on a recent government contract by eight times. They aim to move 95 individuals a year towards employment and have already worked with about 700 people since LIFT began.

“Even if [the rangatahi] wants to be a rocket scientist, we start them on that journey. Over time they realise that they might need to do some other jobs or training along the way,” Graeme says.

Find out more about LIFT Youth Employment and LIFT Business.