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    Mayors' forum shares ideas on youth job initiatives

    22 April 2004

    By ROCHELLE WEST

    Zero youth unemployment might sound a big ask, but New Zealand's mayors are focused on getting all people under 25 years old into work or training.
    The Mayors Taskforce for Jobs forum opened in New Plymouth yesterday, with the country's civic leaders sharing ideas on how local mayors, working with community organisations, can help cut the youth unemployment rate.

    Mayors Taskforce for Jobs chairman, Christchurch Mayor Garry Moore, did not believe the notion of zero youth unemployment was an unrealistic goal for mayors to strive for.

    "Unless you reach for the sky, you won't get there," Mr Moore said.

    "There is no simple solution to it. It's a very big challenge. It will be a series of many different organisations and different people showing leadership and a commitment to all of our young people. Out of that process drops the solutions.

    "When I left school, I expected I would go to work and every young person should get that message too."

    There needed to be a systemic change in New Zealand culture, with local government working together with central government agencies, education providers and business to get young people in training or work, he said.

    Sharing initiatives and ideas with other mayors and employment organisations during the forum was a way of pushing towards the taskforce's goal, he said.

    The taskforce, which was formed in 2000 and started out as a core group of 12 elected leaders, now boasts 80% of the nation's mayors.

    Mr Moore told the conference of more than 100 people including mayors, community groups and government agencies about the initiatives Christchurch had taken to address youth employment. They included working closely with the city's tertiary institutions and secondary school principals.

    One scheme the council and other community groups were working on was in Christchurch's lower socio-economic area of Linwood.

    "We are attempting to capture the young people in the malls, places where they frequent, with interesting and exciting software, which links them through to learning programmes.

    "We are going to say to the young people in that suburb, we guarantee you a certain level of literacy and numeracy and if you get to those levels, you will automatically go through to Christchurch Polytech.

    "What we are trying to create is a climate where they know where the jobs are and, if they can't read and they can't count, they won't get a job."

    Dunedin Mayor Sukhi Turner spoke of her city's Mayoral Year of the Apprentice, which targeted the trades.

    More than 100 employers attended the launch of the scheme where they were encouraged to take on apprentices. Five employers took up that option following the launch, Mrs Turner said.

    Youth work initiative schemes based in Taranaki were also highlighted during the first day of the national forum, held at the New Plymouth District Council chambers.

    At the opening of the forum, community adviser to the mayors' taskforce, Vivian Hutchinson of New Plymouth, said he would like the legacy of the taskforce to be a guarantee of jobs for young people.

    "I would like to see that the legacy be seen not as dates or goals achieved, but as an ongoing and living guarantee that there will be decent work and good training opportunities for all young people in New Zealand."

    The forum finishes today.