Thousands of Waikato youth to benefit from PGF funding injection

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Graham Boswells Foster Construction HGHS workplace visit 14 Aug 2019

A significant Government funding injection for Smart Waikato’s award-winning Secondary School Employer Partnerships (SSEP) will benefit thousands more young people throughout the region as the programme expands.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones today announced Smart Waikato Trust will receive $449,300 over three years from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) to extend SSEP into 21 more regional secondary schools and work with employers to create more transition-to-work opportunities.

The success of this project is underpinned by a collective approach between Smart Waikato, community philanthropic organisations, corporates and other funders over the next three years. For 2019 WEL Energy Trust, Te Waka, Waikato Farmers Trust, SKYCITY Hamilton Community Trust, Mercury-Waikato Tainui Partnership, J & G Gallagher and the Gallagher Trust have pitched in to help.

The funding will generate jobs for young people by enabling Smart Waikato to work with 140 existing SSEP employers to develop and promote entry level work opportunities, linking back to further education where applicable.

By 2021 10,000 students will have been enrolled in SSEP in 43 of 50 secondary schools throughout the region. Schools with a high Māori population will be a priority.

SSEP is a region-wide collaboration so far involving 22 secondary schools, 2300 students, 110 teachers and 140 employers. Participants work together to show students school subjects in a ‘real world’ context. The aspirational vision of the initiative is that by 2030 there will be no youth unemployment, no skills shortages, and educators and employers will ‘move freely in each other’s worlds’.

Experiencing subject learning in a workplace context is having “positive and profound” effect on secondary school students throughout Waikato, with impact even more significant for Māori.

Measurement of the initiative shows in comparison to results from all student data, an even greater impact was seen on Māori students, particularly the extent to which SSEP has influenced future school subject choices (72%  of Māori students compared with 66% of all students), how long students think they will stay in school (69% of Māori students) and helped when thinking about their future career (74% of Māori compared with 66% of all students).

Smart Waikato Chief Executive Mary Jensen is thrilled the region has secured the PGF funding as it will directly benefit the lives of thousands of young people, whānau and their communities, and strengthen the economic sector.

“This is fantastic news for the Waikato and for everyone who has been involved with SSEP over the past four years. I’d like to commend the supporters who believed in the vision from the beginning, the educators who welcomed the opportunity for students to connect with industry and all the business people who have volunteered their time to show young people there is a place for them in the world of work. Your commitment has helped secure this Government investment into our region,” Mary said.

“SSEP enables all students to develop face-to-face relationships with employers and assures them that a fulfilling and sustainable working future is available to them,” Mary said.

Importantly, the funding will also be used to establish an SSEP Resource Centre with on-line and support services, building capacity in schools and businesses so they are equipped to continue with partnerships beyond the three-year formal SSEP term, she said.

Hamilton MP Jamie Strange said the announcement is great news for the region because it will enable Smart Waikato to scale up its work, including inspiring students to consider careers in industries with skill shortages.

“Smart Waikato is an excellent regional organisation, providing an important link between skills and businesses and creating the opportunity for students to contextualise their learning in real life situations. This PGF funding will enable the trust to increase the scale of the work they do by building on these important relationships between students and key industries.”

Smart Waikato will also establish a greater presence in South Waikato, extending SSEP there by engaging more employers and developing work readiness and transition-to-work opportunities as part of the South Waikato Economic Action Plan (SWEAP).

Smart Waikato Chairman Sarah Morton-Johnson said the funding recognises both the significant outcomes achieved by the SSEP initiative, and the generous support given by local funders and employers since the pilot of the initiative in 2016.

“SSEP is well supported by secondary schools, employers and local funders and Smart Waikato is delighted to be able to continue to expand the reach and impact of SSEP and other initiatives with funding from the PGF,” Sarah said.

“Our hope is that the investment by the PGF will inspire further generosity, with new and existing supporters bolstering the range of initiatives and outcomes delivered by Smart Waikato.”

SSEP won Economic Development New Zealand’s Best Practice in Collaboration for Business, Iwi and Community last year.