Hawke's Bay youths get second shot at employment with new scheme

Economists warn young workers will continue to bear the brunt of the economic collapse as the Covid-19 crunch hits the job market.

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Youth employment initiatives are trying to plug the gap, but more needs to be done. Source: 1 NEWS

While some are closing down, a group of Hawke's Bay youths are setting up shop. And for some like Beyonce Shellford, it's even their first job that she's been struggling to get for a while.

"I didn't have any education or nothing and no one would have me because of my background," she told 1 NEWS.

The store on Emerson St in Napier is also helping 18-year-old Nigel-Lee Caldwell into the fold of working.

"It's like an eye-opener because now I have this job and it's so fun and it's kicked back. I want to carry on in retail, whereas before I would have never even pictured myself getting a job," he says.

Retail associate Reef Liddington, 20, has been out of work since lockdown.

"For me, personally, it's really helped with my communication skills and being able to apply myself in certain situations," he says.

"I'd say maybe a couple of years ago, I wouldn't be able to conversate and reciprocate as well as I can now and I owe that to this."

It's part of a youth employment scheme called LIFT. As well as running ready-for-work courses, young people can gain practical skills to implement business ideas.

Facilitator Jody Hamilton says the front of the shop then provides an outlet to sell.

"If they're not going to be able to find employment, what's the opportunity that comes out of all their creative ideas and how we can take them forward," she says.

LIFT currently employees five people at a time.

"The other thing that has happened is we have seen a whole new group as well, so we have more than 85 rangitahi engage with us since post-lockdown," Ms Hamilton says.

In Hawke's Bay, the number of young people aged between 15 and 24 who aren't in education training or employment was sitting at 13.8 per cent before lockdown.

But that number is expected to increase due to the economic fallout of Covid-19.

Infometrics economist Brad Olsen says low-skilled employees are often the first out the door in tough economic climates.

"In the Hawke's Bay we've seen 1300 fewer jobs for young people below the age of 30. [It's] a real struggle for young people trying to make their way in their career, get ahead in life," he says.

"They are finding it a real difficulty to find a job and move forward."

The shop opened today, topped off with $80,000 of funding from Napier City Council.

Mr Olsen believes more investment is needed from the Government.

"We are going to continue to see the effects of Covid-19 hit the economy for a long period and that will mean young people struggle for an extended period of time," he says.

"What that means that we need to continue to have investment for young people to get them into work, to get them work-ready, to make sure they connect the skills that they have with what employers want."

And if you go in for a visit, you'll see those invaluable skills are also putting on invaluable smiles.