A new scheme launched today will help young people who have been on a benefit for six months or more.

The Mana in Mahi – Strength in Work scheme, launched today by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, will encourage employers to take on 18-24 year olds and help them work towards a Level 4 qualification.

The scheme will pay income equivalent of the person’s benefit, with the employer topping that up at least to the minimum wage, and be supported with extra funding for pastoral care from $3,000 and up to $6,000.

“Our young people have so much promise – we’re going help them bring that promise to life by giving them the power to get into a job and gain qualifications with our support,” says Ardern.

Ardern has described the scheme as “as a win-win”.

“They get off the benefit and enjoy the dignity of work while encouraging employers to take on apprentices they might otherwise not have trained.”

Minister of Employment Willie Jackson says although the current unemployment rate is relatively low at 4.5 percent but there is still work to do for young people.

“Eleven percent of 15-24 year olds are NEETS – Not in Employment, Education or Training – and it’s around 15 percent for Maori and Pacific people. That’s not good enough,” says Jackson.

Mana in Mahi will start with a pilot for up to 150 people and will be available for up to as many as 4,000 people from next year.

The programme will be rolled out in phases with the first involving two employer groups and initially about 40 places ready to go in October with 150 places expected to be filled next year. Mana in Mahi will then become available for up to 4000 places following evaluation from the middle of 2019.

The Industry Training Federation says the scheme is a good start but wants to see similar wage support extended to all employers of new apprentices, not just long-term job-seekers.

“Any opportunity which encourages more employers to offer training is a step in the right direction, but we don’t think “Mana in Mahi” goes far enough to encourage more employers to invest in tomorrow’s workforce,” says chief executive Josh Williams.

“If we don’t get more young people on a track to a working future we will all pay much more in the long run.”

However, E tū, the largest private sector union in New Zealand, is celebrating the initiative.

E tū Construction Industry Coordinator Ron Angel is pleased to see that construction work is targeted in the programme.

“It’s an excellent initiative. There is plenty of construction work to do, and with so many of our country’s young people not in education or employment it makes a lot of sense to help them into the industry,” he says.

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