Sonitani Kula from Youthtown Auckland is passionate about providing the opportunity for rangatahi to have a voice. He provides some insight into the importance of creating the best environment for this to happen in.
With many organisations, the rangatahi voice is an advisory group that sits on the side and feeds into the business. Some organisations listen, act and absorb the suggestions capitalising on this diverse and future focused generation, and they provide a platform for young workers to have their voices heard. Unfortunately, many decide it is a tick box exercise and largely ignore the rangatahi voice when it doesn’t align with the organisation’s strategy.
Organisations are beginning to accept that to be a sustainable business they need to bring young people through and provide the appropriate training and opportunities. There is improvement in this space, and businesses that embrace this concept will thrive with the fresh innovations and new ideas coming through. Others are set in their ways of how they view young people and will therefore struggle as the skill and labour shortage becomes more dire.
The need for a voice comes down to a simple fact: our rangatahi want to be heard, seen and feel safe within school, home, employment and society.
Three things that are important to many rangatahi as they look to enter the workforce are:
- They need to make money to help their whānau.
- They need a job quickly. Many rangatahi are slipping through the education crack and don’t know what to do for a career or even how to create a CV to get a job.
- They are concerned about being seen as a failure by family, peers, school and/or co-workers.
Therefore, when rangatahi are asking for a seat at the table, it is our responsibility to ensure they are prepared enough to sit there. YEP provides many critical components of enabling and upskilling their soft skills, including providing them with the confidence to speak up and articulate their needs.
Areas where we need to create more opportunities include facilitators taking the time and having the experience to have discussions with rangatahi to unpack more than just the inside of a workbook. It’s about having deeper conversations with them and providing an environment for open and vulnerable conversations so rangatahi can have a safe, nourishing and educational space.
It takes a lot of training of facilitators to create those safe spaces and have more sensitive discussions, especially with our young men. We know we have a damaging culture within New Zealand that many of our rangatahi face, including the toxic masculinity and kiwi way of not speaking up. It is critical to find a way to upskill our young people and provide them with the tools to deal with mental health: knowing how to ask for help, understanding coping mechanisms, identifying and dealing with emotions, etc.
These conversations, and in turn the stronger voice we’re enabling them with, will provide rangatahi the confidence to ask questions, or even be the vulnerable ones. A huge positive for when they enter the workforce and come under additional pressures.