Leaving school can be a daunting experience for any young person. But for some, lack of confidence and skills, poor public transport, and a feeling of disconnect from the community leaves them feeling lost and unsure of where to turn to.
In Katikati, there are an estimated 250 young people aged 16-24 years not in education, training or employment.
A new role in the Katikati community is working to get that number down to zero, supporting young people’s wellbeing and guiding them on a pathway to achieve their aspirations and success in education, training, and employment.
Melody Lamb is the new Youth Employment Coach in Katikati. Her role includes mentoring and coaching, supporting young people to identify their goals, connecting them with local job opportunities, helping with CV writing and interview skills, and supporting them to gain their driver license.
Melody says youth are falling through the cracks due to the many barriers they face.
“When you take school out of the equation, a lot of these kids have nothing – they don’t think about that until they’re leaving, and they’re going into the big world with no plans. By that point, they have lost that school support system, and for some of them, school was never the right fit and they fall through the cracks.
“Poor public transport options between Katikati and Tauranga has also created a barrier for local rangatahi, and the apparent local barriers to securing a car licence and having access to a car have left young people with fewer options to engage with employment opportunities throughout the region. Right now, rangatahi have more work opportunities in the local kiwifruit industry. However, they cannot get to and from work due to existing transport barriers.”
In the past three months, Melody has supported 14 rangatahi around career pathways, with four finding employment. One of these was a local youth who had returned to Katikati from overseas.
“A local grandmother contacted me in March regarding her 22-year-old grandson who was moving back to Katikati after a long time away in another country. She explained the family had some concerns about him integrating back into society, including employment due to past experiences, personal challenges and Covid regulations and wondered if I could I help,” says Melody.
“Once he had been through three weeks of isolation, we met at the Community Centre. After I identified his skills and needs, I suggested a worksite visit, and he agreed. Due to the early intervention of his grandmother, I was able to search and find a local business that was looking for part-time staff. We attended the worksite visit and both parties were happy to begin a trial. That was last week and I will be following both parties up next week to see how things are going.”
Melody’s role has been developed under the ‘Positive Pathways for Rangitahi’ research project by Katikati Taiao, in partnership with Tamawhariua Health and Social Services and the Katikati Community Centre.
Katikati Taiao was established in 2018 and works to promote long-term environmental, social and cultural wellbeing and sustainability in and around Katikati. The charity finds the funding and provides the background governance and support for community-led initiatives like the Positive Pathways project.
Melody works out of the Katikati Community Centre. During her first three months in the role, she has been familiarising herself with the Community Centre’s protocols and policies and has had many networking meetings and one-on-one engagement with local businesses, social services and rangatahi.
“I’d really like to see more people working together in the youth space providing more services and mentoring for the youth in Katikati, and I’d like to see more local employment. I’d also like to see the businesses benefiting from this role and what’s going into it too,” she says.
“The community in Katikati really cares about the youth and wants to work collaboratively to get rid of any barriers to stop them from achieving the best outcomes possible. It’s encouraging and inspiring to see that.”
Katikati Taiao applied for TECT funding last year to support the creation of Melody’s role. With $25,000 approved in December, Katikati Taiao Community Activator Alan Maxwell says the charity is incredibly grateful.
“TECT’s funding was critical with establishing this role. Like every initiative, it needs those initial backers to back it, otherwise, these initiatives just stay a dream. We’re grateful to TECT for being one of those backers and seeing how hugely beneficial this role will be in our community.
“Young people 24 years and under very rarely get a seat at any table because they’re not homeowners, don’t tend to be ratepayers, and don’t pay a lot of taxes. But they’re the one sector of our community that will cost us a fortune if we don’t invest in them well, as they’ll have another 50 years of dependency if we don’t do it well. What we’re investing now with this role will lead to huge outcomes.”