Job package keeps spin doctors busy

The party spin doctors were kept busy today, explaining what’s on offer from the youth employment package and who can benefit.

Bloody near as many announcements made as on Budget Day.

Wonderful to see how many Ministers can feed off one basic announcement.

1. Prime Minister John Key announced a $152 million package to create new work, education and training opportunities for unemployed young people.

The number of young people who want a job but can’t get one has more than quadrupled in the past year as the global economic crisis has hit New Zealand.

The number has climbed from less than 4000 last June to nearly 17,000 by June this year.

“I am concerned that for a young person starting out in their working life, a long period of unemployment can be very damaging,” says Mr Key.

“Studies show that young people are disproportionately affected by long periods spent on the benefit.

“That is why I have announced a package of initiatives today around work, education and training, designed to strengthen the ladder of opportunity for young people.

“While unemployment remains high, it is absolutely critical that we provide young people with adequate development opportunities. If we don’t we risk diminishing the potential of an entire generation of New Zealanders, and I won’t accept that.”

2. Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says young people and their communities will benefit from a new scheme to boost youth work opportunities.

She’s referring to Community Max which targets unskilled 16 to 24 year olds with low or no qualifications whose chances of getting work are limited. It consists of $40.3 million of funding to support up to 3000 places on community projects for young people.

Bennett says this is a good opportunity for communities to play a part in addressing the serious issue of youth unemployment.

3. Tertiary Education Minister Anne Tolley announced 1600 scholarships will be provided at universities during the summer break under a joint initiative funded by the Government and universities.

Total funding will be $8 million, split 50:50 between the Government and universities. Each full-time equivalent scholarship with be worth $5000, GST exclusive. The scholarships will broaden the range of scholarships usually offered by universities.

4. Social Development and Employment Minister Paula Bennett announced up to 600 additional job training placements will be created for young people through a new reprioritisation of the Industry Partnership Programme.

Industry Partnerships are formalised relationships with industry which give employees access to industry-specific training, and a chance to build a career for themselves.

Currently 2400 of 6000 Industry Partnership places are ring-fenced for unemployed 16-24 year olds. The Government aims to boost that number to 3000, creating up to 600 new opportunities for our young people.

5. Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia called on Maori and Pasifika youth to take up the opportunities that will be created by the Government’s $152 million investment in young people during the economic downturn.

The initiatives not only offered opportunities for employers and training providers, but also grassroots Maori and Pasifika groups – including marae and Maori land incorporations – focused on doing work that benefits their communities, she said.

Of the several initiatives being run, she reckons the Community Max and Job Ops schemes (in which up to 7000 employment opportunities could be created) would likely appeal particularly to Maori and Pasifika youth and their communities.

6. Tertiary Education Minister Anne Tolley said the Government will jump-start the first stage of the Youth Guarantee in 2010, a year earlier than originally intended.

Up to 2000 full-time equivalent student places will be created for the Youth Guarantee in each of the 2010 and 2011 calendar years, at a cost of $52.7 million. The students will be selected from areas of highest need, based on youth unemployment rates and access to suitable vocational training programmes.

7. Paula Bennett and Associate Defence Minister Heather Roy jointly announced the expansion of the Limited Service Volunteer Scheme. The scheme helps young people at risk of long term unemployment to gain the skills and confidence necessary to get a job. It targets 18 – 25 year olds who are on an Unemployment Benefit. Currently, 720 places are available in five, six-week residential camps held at Burnham each year.

The Government will boost funding by up to $19 million so that an extra 1250 LSV places will become available in each of the 2010 and 2011 calendar years. It will also establish two new programmes, one in Auckland and the other in the Lower North Island, by January next year.

8. John Key (as Tourism Minister ) and Paula Bennett jointly announced $5.3 million is being allocated to subsidise young people into work on regional projects that will form part of the National Cycleway Project.

The goal of the cycleway project is to create a network that links a series of ‘Great Rides’ throughout New Zealand. The $5.3 million will be used to encourage those developing Great Rides to take on and train young people to do the work.

Sixteen to 24 year-olds make up about one-third of all people on an unemployment benefit.

9. Tertiary Education Minister Tolley announced an $8 million funding boost will help high-performing polytechnics and institutes of technology collectively provide up to 700 new places to help cope with forecast enrolment growth next year.

The one-off funding will be available to deal with expected increases in student enrolments in 2010 resulting from the impact of the economic downturn on youth employment opportunities. The extra $8 million was unspent funding previously allocated to the sector and returned to the Tertiary Education Commission.

10. Paula Bennett said creating job opportunities for young people is the focus of the Government’s new Job Ops scheme, which targets unskilled 16 to 24 year olds with low or no qualifications who have limited employment opportunities.

The scheme will pump $20 million into funding around 4000 entry-level jobs. This age-group makes up around one-third of all those on the Unemployment Benefit. Bennett says the business community will be asked to play its part in helping address youth unemployment with this package, which will subsidise employers $5000 for each young person hired into an entry level position for six months.

This consists of an upfront payment of $3000, with a further $2000 paid once the person has completed six months in the job.

11. Tariana Turia says unemployed youth living in rural areas will be among those who benefit from an initiative which is part of a $40.3 million Community Max investment by the Government.

Up to 3000 employment opportunities will be created from September under the Community Max scheme.

And young people and their communities living in rural areas will not be forgotten, Turia said.

Under Community Max, she reminded us, the Government will subsidise the wage of each youth on the unemployment benefit who works on a local community or environmental project for up to 30 hours a week, for a duration of up to six months. Some young people may take part in consecutive projects. Youth working on Community Max projects will receive at least the minimum wage of $12.50 an hour.

Such projects could be run by iwi, marae, Maori trust boards, Maori land incorporations and local councils.

The scheme will also include funding for a supervisor for every four workers and a training component of up to $1250 per worker per project.

12. Maori Affairs Minister Pite Sharples strongly endorsed the Government’s focus on reducing unemployment among young people.

“My own priority is young Maori, who are disproportionately affected. Te Puni Kokiri has already piloted several initiatives to train and upskill young people, and the Prime Minister launched a new programme only last week,” said Dr Sharples.

“The Maori Economic Summit I hosted earlier this year viewed training and employment of young people

13. Pacific Island Affairs Minister Georgina te Heuheu said Pacific youth will benefit from the Youth Opportunities policy package. Sixteen to 24 year olds make up about one-third of all people on an unemployment benefit. Of those 12 per cent are Pacific youth.

Mrs te Heuheu says two of the initiatives announced by the Prime Minister – Job Op and Community Max – will create immediate opportunities of particular value to Pacific people.
Those announcements don’t leave much for Labour nit-pickers, although they are bound to say the package isn’t big enough.

It never will be for them.

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