Fay Amaral, CEO at Youthtown, provided insights from the conference on funding issues and opportunities and the need for providers to have more long-term certainty.
A key funding issue for our sector is how we financially support our rangatahi and encourage them to remain in education through the ages of 16–18. By doing so, we would remove the need for many to enter the workforce early and get stuck in potentially low paid and low skill jobs. A student allowance that is allocated on completion of study would help create a solution for those families where rangatahi would otherwise need to work to help support their whānau.
The requirement for young workers to support whānau is becoming a significant issue and is due to rising costs of living exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19. Offering support by way of this allowance would encourage rangatahi to complete school and be in a better position overall to find skilled work or continue with tertiary education. The longer we engage our rangatahi in learning, the better their long-term employment prospects will be.
Another funding solution discussed was providing more flexibility around the school curriculum to enable students to work while continuing to learn within a school environment.
This would support rangatahi to continue pursuing learning opportunities and subjects that they are interested in. It would be even better if this was paired with better support in schools around counselling, guidance and understanding of a young person’s circumstances. Currently schools don’t cater for the diverse needs of young people, and careers guidance can be lacking or one dimensional, especially in under-served communities, which removes the equitable opportunity for all.
The Ministry of Education must increase their focus on engaging and hearing rangatahi voice, pastoral care, counselling, and guidance in schools where needed to support our young people and encourage them to explore different career paths and interests.
The role of employers and how they can better support rangatahi was raised, with ideas such as removing youth rates, as well as incentivizing employers to recruit, train and support local young people and further develop their skills. At all levels of employment, young people should be paid a meaningful wage whilst being given every opportunity to stay in education to improve long-term outcomes. At the very least, workplace training should provide the option to earn NCEA credits, which would potentially encourage and engage them in further tertiary study.
Rather than the notion of a transition to work loan for young people to pay for tools, etc., I would prefer to see corporate social investment generated and encouraged to enable rangatahi to enter the workforce with the right equipment without the need for loans, which can cause other issues and long-term financial burdens.
Funding for providers is the last crucial issue that we delve into. We need long-term funding contracts based on measurable and positive delivery for young people. This will allow us to concentrate our efforts of delivering the best possible outcomes to grow young people and employability opportunities versus spending significant time and effort into preparing funding applications every year. The intermittent and inconsistent funding that we currently work with has a negative impact for the sector. By having funding available to enable meaningful, measurable outcomes-focused delivery will ensure every dollar of funding spent on our rangatahi is maximised.
All these funding and financial sustainability issues need to be worked on collectively as a sector to ensure our rangatahi are provided the best opportunities to explore, learn and develop the knowledge, skills and experience for them to thrive in long-term careers.