A successful pilot scheme to bring jobs to Wairarapa in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown has been expanded and extended.
The Mayors Taskforce for Jobs Community Recovery Programme, a collaboration with the Ministry of Social Development, was trialled in South Wairarapa for six weeks to the end of June.
It was designed to help rural councils assist small to medium-sized businesses with recruitment, training, and subsidies, to help them take on young workers or those who have been displaced due to the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.
South Wairarapa District Council worked with local employers during May and June to find work for locals whose jobs had been lost through the lockdown.
The Wairarapa Times-Age reported at the weekend that Greytown's popular Main St Cafe and Deli had employed candidates through the programme.
The timing suited business owner Angela Cates, with the town's first mid-winter Christmas event being held at the weekend.
Cates has just taken on a kitchen hand and a front-of-house assistant with help from the initiative.
"I have a wonderful young woman - Sara Cameron - who came in with her CV," Cates said. "I started her off in the kitchen and when we were short-staffed, she readily switched to taking out food to guests.
"I'm very happy with her, she is only 18 years old and amazing."
The programme focuses on young people not in education, employment or training.
After success at the bottom end of the valley, the programme will now continue into 2021.
South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen said his council was able to "assist people who are very self-starting, so that the impact of losing their job was minimalised".
"Hopefully it [the scheme] will be long-term, and we cover it with a lot more structure.
"If the scheme continues we can go back and follow up with those people, and see if they have future training needs, and possibly work with employers more, rather than react.
"This was a very quick reaction, and there will be a more measured reaction coming up. "
It has been scaled up around the country, across 23 more councils, including Carterton.
District Mayor Greg Lang said his council was "really excited to have the opportunity to run this programme in Carterton".
"We're currently working with South Wairarapa District Council to explore options for delivering the programme across our two districts, ahead of making a decision on the best way to ensure the maximum benefit for our young people.
"While Masterton is not eligible for this programme we will also be looking for opportunities to work with Masterton District Council on any projects that would have wider Wairarapa benefit."
The programme will provide up to $500,000 per rural council to create a minimum of 50 sustainable employment positions.
Young people were at the forefront of redundancies forced by lockdown. The number of young people under 30 seeking unemployment support rose from 4.1 percent to 6.5 percent - twice as many as those aged 30 to 64 - between the months of February and April this year.
Max Baxter, the MTFJ chair and mayor of Ōtorohanga said the pilot was "a real success" across the first four councils, which included South Wairarapa.
"Partnering with MSD is a big win for the Taskforce - it's an endorsement of the work we're doing and the belief that we have, that mayors can successfully connect youth and businesses.
"This programme has big net benefits not just for youth, but for our entire country, both socially and economically."
Baxter said small businesses generate 28 percent of New Zealand's gross domestic product and employ over 600,000 people, 29 percent of the workforce.
"When small businesses succeed and have confidence, they increase employment opportunities and overall income levels."
- Additional reporting by Karen Coltman
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