By Geoff Vause
A stocktake of any community will show there are more jobs than people to fill them, and the Wairarapa is no different, according to former Otorohanga mayor Dale Williams.
Mr Williams had amazing success reducing unemployment when he wore mayoral chains, with a pragmatic approach connecting young people with employers to build “a labour market that works”.
He told the Economic Development Conference at Carterton this week a realistic audit of rural communities and provincial towns such as those in the Wairarapa would show lack of jobs was a myth.
“Employers need to ask what the job market in their industry looks like,” Mr Williams said.
“There’s no point putting an ad in the paper in August and grizzling there are no takers when you knew back in May you’d be needing three forklift drivers.
“We put a JobFest together in Porirua recently and invited 40 employers who had jobs ready to go,” Mr Williams said.
“It became competitive. We had more wanting to attend but we limited the invitations.
“We then attracted young people serious about getting in to work. The ones who wanted to work only, no others. Success followed.”
He said Youth Guarantee and Gateway programmes designed to match young people with employers had limited results because industry was not engaging.
“The educators are pushing, the kids are ready, but industry is not buying in.
“This is shortsighted. I hear industry saying ‘we have a shortage of workers’ and I ask ‘how many apprentices have you signed up?’ They haven’t.
“Industries being creative, employing and training young people, will be the winners,” he said.
Mr Williams said youth pay rates was another mistake.
“Why would young people go for that? Being paid less than the going rate because they’re young?”
He said young people were the most valuable commodity, and any community without a properly planned and well-led youth-to-work strategy would find it was unsustainable.
“In twenty years youth rates will be $20 per hour higher than adult rates. How else will you get them to work for you?
“Any community that properly audits itself will find lack of jobs for young people is a myth,” he said.
He said developing relationships between schools and business was not the job of teachers and employers, it belonged with the mayors, the councils and the wider community.
“This is the elephant in the room. Building resilient communities is a matter of supply and demand, people and resources. We have ageing populations.
“If you’re honest and look hard enough you’ll find you have more jobs than young people to fill them.”
By Geoff Vause