A new approach challenging perceptions of welfare dependency and under-achievement in Glen Innes is making steady progress. In part four of Newsroom’s series on Tāmaki, Teuila Fuatai reports on why local job seekers are reaping the rewards.

At the heart of the Glen Innes town centre, the Tāmaki Jobs and Skills hub is located about 50 metres from the Ministry of Social Development offices.

Funded by the Tāmaki Regeneration Company (TRC), and run in conjunction with the Auckland Business Chamber, anyone who walks into the modest-looking office is greeted by manager Alice Taupaū and her team.

“We don’t turn anyone away,” she says firmly.

In its current form, the Mayfair Place hub has been running for nearly five years. Working closely with TRC’s other social services, its primary aim is to match locals with good quality jobs.

“Believe it or not, there’s about 200 agencies and non-government organisations working here within Tāmaki for only 18,000 people,” TRC spokeswoman Shelley Katae says.

“There’s a huge number of services helping people when they reach crisis or need help,” she says.

“But, it’s the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff kind of stuff. There were not many services that were aspirational, trying to help people achieve their aspirations. And there was a big gap in affordable housing and jobs and skills.”

Taupaū, who oversees the hub’s three staff members, says one of the biggest hurdles has been trying to build up her team’s own reputation in the community.

“At first, it was really difficult to get anyone engaged. I think with young people … there was a perception that they didn’t want to work,” she says.

“I think they were aware of that perception within themselves. They were wary of us as well: ‘Are they really going to help, or are they just going to try get numbers and leave?’ But we stick with it and provide the support they need to keep going, we are not just trying to say for example we placed three people this week, we want those placements to be right for both the employee and employer so they stay and both are happy.

“But, when they saw the work that we were doing, and we were actually working with the community, they started to trust us and send people to us,” she says.

So far, numbers are promising. Latest figures show that the hub has matched about 200 people a year with jobs – about four a week. On top of that, 230 people have also gained drivers’ licences through them.

Through programmes like Career Start, and working directly with business development manager Sheaam Achmat, those who come through the hub are supported to find employment that best suits what they want. Helping people to upskill and earn better incomes is also a priority.

Katae: “For example, we had a local guy come in and he’d been on the minimum wage for two years. The team, in one week, worked with him to help him attain a Wheels, Tracks and Rollers qualification [endorsement for his licence] and his income went up 25 percent immediately, just from that – a $711 investment by a caring team.

“He went straight home, and convinced another person in his household, living in one of our social homes to come down to the Hub.”

Taupaū emphasises how her team’s open approach has been fundamental to its standing with residents, and businesses.

“I’ve noticed the change in the youth here from when I first started. In that first group, they didn’t want to travel outside Glen Innes. They wouldn’t talk about ‘the future’.

“I’ve seen how it’s changed over the four years. They’re willing to travel and try new things, because their older brothers and sisters have got jobs through us, and their parents have got jobs through us. They come here and they’re like ‘Yep, I’ll work in the city, I’ll work in South Auckland, I’ll work wherever’. And it’s going to carry on. It’s a domino effect.”

Achmat also points out the wide range of job seekers the hub team works with.

“We had one teenager who had Asperger’s. We got him a work experience role with a business that manufactures and designs robots. He was so excited because he could see how the robots were being made and how they work,” she says.

“After six weeks, the employer decided to offer the role permanently. He now wants to get into robotics engineering. His mum had been really, really worried about him because he had finished school and she wasn’t sure what he was going to do.”

From the employers’ perspective, having a team as clued-in as the hub is a huge draw card. Achmat is the main point of contact with businesses.

“The first thing that lets people’s guard down is that they see you’re actually doing this as part of social responsibility to the community. The really good thing is in the majority of companies that I’ve come across ‘diversity and inclusion’ are big buzz words at the moment.”

For example, flooring products company Jacobsen NZ on Morrin Rd wants to hire locals as part of its diversity and inclusion model. With organisations like the Auckland Council, she also stresses that to reduce unemployment, offering jobs to people who aren’t in work, as opposed to someone who already has a job and wants to move, is important.

The hub, which receives Government support through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Ministry of Social Development and works with construction apprenticeship organisation BCITO, is also sold as a pro-bono recruitment agency to employers who are a bit unsure about working with it.

“If you were to go to a recruitment agency, you’d be paying that agency to get someone on board,” Achmat says.

“Whereas, we’re all trained recruiters who do the same work, but if you’re hiring in the local community, you’re doing it at no recruitment costs, and no ongoing mentoring costs, because we do that. We can do the pre-screening, the shortlisting, the arranging of the interview, and also the prepping of the candidate before they go into the interview.”

Katae, whose roots are in the Tāmaki area, summarises the hub’s progress in her community so far.

“The biggest difference is when you come through this door, there is aroha and manaakitanga. So people keep coming back. They bring their whānau members back, and that is so important.”

“The people we help are those locals wanting to increase their wages and quality of employment, kids leaving school and wanting to get into employment instead of tertiary studies, youth not in jobs or school, and locals actively looking for work.”

Caption: Jesse Carmichael at work in Point England. Photo: Teuila Fuatai

No work for 12 months

Glen Innes local Jesse Carmichael is a man of few words.

The 34-year-old supervises several work sites around Tāmaki for land development company Arvig Civil. He found the job after meeting with Taupaū and her team at the beginning of this year.

“I heard about them through a number of other people, and I needed a job. I went in there and signed up with them,” he says.

Carmichael, previously a forklift driver and construction worker, had been out of work for about 12 months when he went into the hub. Things were tough and he was “just getting by” with help from Work and Income.

But, it didn’t take long for an opportunity to come by, Carmichael says with a grin.

“They rung me up and put me into contact straight away with …. Arvig [Civil].

“I came in for the interview and got the job straight away.”

The hub helped him earn his Wheels, Tracks and Rollers endorsements for his licence, and also set him up with an apprenticeship in civil work.

“It’s good – it’s meant I’ve been able to test my skills and see how I’ve gone,” he says.

Since starting the job, Carmichael has also been promoted to a supervisor’s role, and is now in charge of several sites for Arvig Civil.

“It’s a step back from doing the ‘hard work’ and about controlling all my guys and what’s going on with them and where they’re going to be,” he says.

“I used to supervise on farms years and years ago, but this is quite different from farming.”

He also keeps in regular contact with the hub.

“They’re pretty sweet as. They always ring me up, and they’ve brought down lunch,” Carmichael says. “They’ve also done my traffic control qualification … and they continue to help my workers that I get through them.”

The business hub’s goals

Job readiness – The hub team work with job seekers to support them into work, or studies, they are interested in pursuing

Job matching – Job seekers and employers are carefully vetted to increase the likelihood of long-lasting working relationships

Mentorship – Even after job seekers find employment, the hub team remains in constant contact. Those who sign up are mentored for 12 months. To date, 80 percent of those who have found employment through the hub remain in work.

This article is part four of a series created with help from the Tāmaki Regeneration Company

Part one: Huge Tāmaki project starts to bear fruit

Part two: Tāmaki: Tapping into the wisdom of the crowd

Part three: Inside the new Tamaki

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