The importance of Connections
The scheme grew out of the national Mayors' Taskforce for Jobs, which seeks to form partnerships between central and local government to get all school leavers aged under 20 into work, training or tertiary education by 2007.
Many organisations already strive for such an outcome - there are 140 in our region that work with youth - but they are bedevilled by fragmentation.
They often don't know much about the others and do not sufficiently spread knowledge of their own work. Nelson Tasman Connections has the goal of linking them in a way that will prevent individuals from falling through the cracks, as they sometimes do today.
The Government is contributing $60,000 and the two local authorities have put in $10,000 each. A coordinator will be hired and young people will be steered from one organisation to another until they are off the unemployment register.
It will be some time before the scheme's effectiveness can be judged. However, it should be warmly welcomed by the community as a positive step which has the potential to do a lot of good.
It will provide a practical pathway to help those youths who do not easily join the mainstream, even in times of low unemployment like now.
In getting them into work or training it could not only change individual lives for the better but also have wider benefits such as bringing down the crime rate. If it is successful in our region and is adopted nationally, it might even help to reduce welfare spending.
An enthusiastic steering group headed by Nelson Mayor Paul Matheson has worked hard to get Nelson Tasman Connections off the ground.
There is much still to be done but already people are asking why someone didn't think of the idea sooner. That's a positive signal that it should make a real difference.