Kiwi Can Do transitions unemployed from benefit into the construction industry and there’s not a pen or pencil in sight. By Greg Fleming

It’s so simple it’s a wonder it hasn’t been done before – pay experienced older tradespeople
to help skill 18 to 25-year-olds not currently in employment, education or training.

The three-week programme builds confidence and purpose and gets trainees work-ready, ensuring they turn up on time, put in an honest day’s work, become a team-player and start mapping out a productive future.

“I tell them if you want a certificate go somewhere else, but if you want a job you’re in the right place,” says Iain Morrison, Kiwi Can Do’s managing director who helped develop the programme.

“But we encourage their subsequent employers to enter into training agreements to gain qualifications,” he says.

The programme has been so successful that now family members are referring others in
their whānau to it.

And thanks to New Zealand’s building boom there’s never been a better time to pull on a
flouro vest, a hard hat and steel cap boots.

Trainees are being welcomed by big and small construction companies in Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.

Mr Morrison says that most of the young people they deal with have struggled at school; many have not had any positive male role models in their lives.

“Book learning is not for them. These young people learn by doing and respond well to an
older mentor.”

The mentors – some in their 70s – talk to the trainees like a grandfather or uncle might.

“That’s important because many trainees have had only negative experiences with authorities like the police or social welfare.”

Best of all the only requirements to join the programme are a positive attitude and
a genuine desire to get a job.

Many of the trainees come from places such as Kaikohe, Kawerau or Katikati where full time work opportunities are limited.

“We put them in their safety gear, drug test them, organise their Site Safe certificates and upgrade their drivers’ licences.”

The programme not only builds confidence, it also helps them through their job interviews and helps resettle them if they should need to move for a job.

Once they are in work Kiwi Can Do keeps in touch for up to six months to make sure they’re staying on track.

The programme has been developed over the last four years in tandem with the Industry Partnership team at the Ministry of Social Development.

“Without being too critical I think our education system is missing the boat,” says Mr Morrison. “We are in the middle of the biggest construction boom in our country’s history. Young men and women are failing in our schools, and kids are dropping out. 20 to 25 per cent of school leavers can’t read or write. The schools are not geared up to do this sort of training. The need for tradies is now and it is immediate.”

The course includes a residential component for the out-of-towners run from the 40-bed Otimai Lodge in Oratia, West Auckland – formerly the Girl Guides Association’s Auckland base.

Day-only trainees are bused to the training site from all over Auckland City.

The focus is on hands-on experiential learning, rather than study and text-based learning.

“This is a millenniums-old way of younger people learning how to do tasks from a skilled
older person.”

Once the trainees make the first rung of the employment ladder, they are then often ready to invest their time and money to get a qualification.

“We just give them a platform from which to grow.”
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