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Driving into work

By Jake Beleski

[email protected]

A community programme aimed at helping disadvantaged learner drivers and opening up career pathways has had one of its first graduates find work.

The Community Driver Mentor Programme is helping students attain their restricted licence by pairing them with mentors who guide them through the process.

Makoura College’s Raeha Langdon landed a job straight after finishing the programme, which has also been implemented at Chanel College and Kuranui College.

It targets drivers in the 16-24 age group.

Raeha said he would not have secured his job without the help of his mentor and the driving lessons provided.

“I don’t think I would have got the job without it.

“The programme was a big help to get to this stage.”

Raeha’s job involves shift work, and he would have almost certainly been ruled ineligible without a restricted licence.

“I finished maybe a month ago and got the job after that.

“[Driving] has been way easier after this programme.”

Kathryn Burgess, of Chanel College, was the first student to gain her restricted licence after finishing the programme.

Businesses had fully embraced the initiative, with Southey Honda and Nissan, Caltex Chapel St and The Sign Factory contributing a $9000 vehicle, free petrol and sign writing respectively.

Raeha’s mentor, Laurel Booth, is the Year 13 dean at Makoura College.

The programme had been a blessing for the school, she said.

“I just thought it was the most wonderful thing.

“We’ve got so many disadvantaged students with barriers in the way of gaining their licence – we kind of looked at a set of criteria in terms of who we thought would be a good fit for the programme and went with that.”

The students spend time practising with their mentor, while also sitting three practice tests with a driving instructor before attempting to gain their restricted licence.

All costs are covered for these tests, as well as the fee to sit their restricted test.

The programme’s co-ordinator, Julia London, said commitment from both sides was the key to the programme’s success.

“It’s not a case of the student saying ‘well maybe I’ll turn up to my lesson today or maybe I won’t’, they actually have to commit to doing their lessons.

“From our side, we commit to helping them get through their restricted.”

They would look to expand into other schools when the opportunity arose, she said.

“We have 15 mentors now, but we can always do with more.”

Wairarapa Road Safety Council manager, Bruce Pauling, was tasked with setting the programme up, and said it had produced a host of off-road benefits.

“Seventy per cent of jobs need licences.

“It’s a no-brainer to put investment at the front end for some of these kids because we don’t want to see them in court, or unemployed – we want better outcomes.”

He said the work of REAP House in Masterton, support teachers and lead teachers had been crucial, but there was one group that was particularly vital.

“The mentors are the champions in all of this.

“The Wairarapa Volunteer Centre and Wairarapa rotary clubs are a huge source of these mentors, and we’re going to have to bring in more as we go.”

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Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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