2 Mar 2018

Escaping the NEET: What it's like to be unemployed

2:53 pm on 2 March 2018

New Zealand is in the middle of a building boom but nearly 12 percent of all 15 to 24-year-olds cannot break into the workforce, a statistic that has remained stubbornly unchanged for nearly a decade.

Insight has been speaking to some of these young people, statistically known as NEETS - not employed, in education or training.

One of them was July Pawa, a 24-year-old. With a roll-your-own cigarette hanging from his lips, he talked about his thrice weekly drug habit he's only recently started to address.

He wants to turn his life around and is now spending more time at the gym, he says, and less time alone in the Porirua flat which once housed his small family, before his ex-partner left with their young daughter just before Christmas.

But Mr Pawa isn't an attractive prospect for most employers.

He has no qualifications, no training, no work experience. He doesn't meet literacy or numeracy standards. He's unemployed and - on paper, at least - nearly unemployable.

He left school at 14, and within three years was in trouble with the law. He'd gotten involved with gangs and drugs.

His mother decided to move Mr Pawa and his brothers down to Porirua to get them away from that environment.

But in his new home, July still struggled, failing a course to get his literacy and numeracy standards and ending up treading water.

However, with help from local community group Partners Porirua, July managed to sit and pass his restricted driver's licence test, which enabled him to buy a car.

Earlier this year - after a lot of poking and prodding - he also renewed an old road traffic controller's certificate he'd gained years ago, but which had expired when he never used it.

Those two qualifications made all the difference.

The day after speaking to Insight, Mr Pawa had a job interview with services company, Downer.

He was looking for a role as a stop-go operator - starting at the bottom, and looking to work his way up.

And he got the job.

* You can hear more about this topic on Insight just after the 8am news on Sunday Morning with Wallace Chapman on RNZ National.

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