Tom Hullena. PHOTO/FILE

BECKIE WILSON
beckie.wilson@age.co.nz

The first regional attempts at grabbing a slice of the government’s $1 billion Provincial Growth Fund are under way.

Three applications from the region have been put forward, while the three Wairarapa district councils along with Greater Wellington Regional Council are working on a separate region-wide application, according to the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment.

About 50 applications have already been approved nationwide, totalling about $126 million.

One of the three Wairarapa applications is to be considered by senior regional officials, while the other two had not yet made it to that stage, according to information released to the Times-Age via an Official Information Act request.

No details of the applications have officially been released, with the ministry saying further information would only be given out if they were successful.

But one of the applications is for an initiative to prepare secondary school pupils for their next step in life, a programme headed by Tom Hullena on behalf of Masterton District Council.

He said being unprepared for the transition from secondary school into the workforce could increase the risk of long-term workplace failure for young people.

But he wants to strengthen this transition for all pupils, especially young Maori men.

While the bid, for $600,000 over three years, is only at the first stage as an expression of interest, Hullena is hopeful it will proceed to the next step of submitting an application.

Hullena is the council’s special projects lead for community development and education, as well as the chairman for Youth in Education Training and Employment.

He served as principal of Makoura College until 2015, and received the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2016 for his services to education.

While the finer details are yet to be discussed, he said the idea was to employ about two people to each work with 20 young Maori men – 120 over the three years – who may be at risk of not transitioning smoothly.

They would be mentored during secondary school to develop occupational outcomes beyond school.

Ministry of Education statistics show that if young people were not ready for the workplace, there was almost a 50 per cent risk of them being a long-term beneficiary, he said.

“If we want more equitable outcomes for all groups in the community, then we need to address those groups who may have fallen behind for whatever reason.

“It’s about reducing the obstacles so everyone gets a fair chance in education.”

He said the concept aligned nicely with the fund’s criteria as well as the council’s well-being and educational strategy.

An application has to meet the fund’s criteria which includes: lifting productivity in a region; building on an established initiative; and aligning with regional priorities.

Hullena said the concept also aligned with the existing YETE initiative with which he hoped to work closely.

The amount asked for would cover staff payments, as well as additional support costs for the students such as transport, marae stays, and work gear for placements.

At this stage the initiative was targeted at Masterton, but Hullena said it could be expanded to the whole region.

Any group or initiative that meets the fund’s criteria can apply.

The minister in charge of the fund is NZ First’s Shane Jones.