Celebrating the success of Pacific WaveSocial Development and Employment
Good morning. Thank you for inviting me to take part in this Pacific Wave Business Breakfast – an excellent opportunity to thank the many people and organisations who have made Pacific Wave such a stunning success in the first 15 months of its operation. Unfortunately my colleague, Taito Phillip Field, is unable to attend this morning, but has asked me to pass-on his thanks and congratulations to you all.
Greetings to local and central government representatives, and to the employers, training and education providers, and community and church organisations represented here today.
Pacific Wave successes
When the Pacific Wave team first swung into action in July last year, your aim was to reduce the Pacific jobseeker register in Auckland by 50% over two years. 15 months later, you’re only 10% away from that goal. Pacific unemployment has reduced by a whopping 40% – from 5,532 in June 2003 to 3,323 in September 2004.
That reduction in the number of registered jobseekers is spectacular, but it’s also just a small part of the picture. In this year’s July to September quarter alone, 1,121 Pacific people in Auckland were placed into employment, representing 24% of all employment placements in the Auckland region.
Of those 1,121 people, 262 were on the Unemployment Benefit, while 895 were new applicants for benefit. A crucial plank of the Pacific Wave Strategy is this early intervention, getting clients into work before they need to register as unemployed.
Another plank is prevention, helping clients at risk of becoming long-term unemployed to get jobs as quickly as possible.
And the third is retention, ensuring that clients know about all the in-work assistance available, so they are supported to stay in employment and not recycled back onto benefits.
This multi-layered approach ensures that no one slips through the cracks, and requires the Pacific Wave team to mobilise all its resources. Specialised case managers enthusiastically promote to clients products like Wk4U seminars, Job Clubs, and in-work assistance available through packages like the new Working for Families.
Pacific Wave staff promote the Strategy at Pacific festivals and events, and to Pacific community groups and church leaders. They work with employers to fill vacancies as quickly as possible, and with training and education providers to ensure Pacific people have the skills they need to succeed.
It’s abundantly clear that Pacific community groups and churches, education and training providers, employers, and contractors have all come to the party.
The Pacific Wave Strategy is a perfect example of what we can achieve when we work together – when we combine our hard graft, our dedication, our willingness to try new ways of doing things.
This Business Breakfast is a moment for you to celebrate what you’ve all achieved for Pacific clients here in Auckland since July last year. You are to be heartily thanked and congratulated for your invaluable contribution to Pacific employment.
The good news for Pacific clients here in Auckland is part of a very positive national picture of growth in employment and in the economy.
The national scene
More than two million New Zealanders are now in work. Unemployment is down to 3.8%, its lowest point since we started keeping records eighteen and a half years ago – and the second-lowest rate in the OECD, just behind Korea on 3.7%. Between June and September this year, 6,899 Job Seekers moved into work nationally – just over 11%, or 1,489, were Pacific people.
What we’re seeing are the fruits of careful economic management and a focus on rebuilding our economy. A stronger economy means a stronger job market – and as job opportunities grow, we’re in a position to really target our efforts towards the different groups in our communities, all with their own unique characteristics.
Pacific Wave is just one example.
Sole parents are getting enhanced case management that focuses on developing a plan for their future, including their return to the workforce.
A new service for Sickness and Invalids Benefit clients is providing proactive support for clients who want to return to work, while continuing to provide security for those who are unable to do this.
Another strategy running in Auckland, this one focusing on migrants and refugees, is assisting new settlers to New Zealand access the training, work experience, and job search skills they need to find employment in their new country.
In the 1990s, when New Zealand suffered economic doldrums and a tight job market, the challenge for Government was to find enough jobs for the available workers.
Today, our challenge is the opposite: we need to supply enough skilled workers for industry to fill the jobs available. The economy is booming, yet employers tell us that a lack of skilled workers is the main factor constraining their further growth.
Since October last year, the government has signed Job Partnerships with eight of New Zealand’s key industries. These employer-led partnerships identify skills gaps, today and in the future, and provide the right training for selected Job Seekers.
So far, 860 Job Seekers have entered skills training for the hospitality, retail, trades, heavy transport, roading, rail, meat processing, and bus and coach industries. 185 of those Job Seekers are already in work, with more to come on stream as others complete their training.
I’m glad to see that many Pacific Wave initiatives have a strong focus on youth employment.
The Government shares the goal of the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs that by 2007 all 15-19 year olds will be in work, training, or further education.
Recognising that the time a young person leaves school is a crucial time for their future, we’ve made a big investment in youth transitions, providing co-ordinated transition planning for school leavers at risk of missing out on work, training or further education.
We recently celebrated the graduation of the 500th young person from our Modern Apprenticeship scheme, while the Gateway programme is providing workplace learning in over 50 industries to senior students from decile 1-6 schools.
The new Working for Families package is ensuring that work pays for low and modest income families, providing a big boost to Family Support, a new In-Work Payment for working parents, and more help with childcare and housing costs.
Making work pay helps ensure that families escape the cycle of moving from benefit to work and back to benefit – a cycle that can result from the financial pressures of coming off benefit.
By 2007, around 300,000 Kiwi families will be better off as a result of Working for Families, with families earning between $25,000 and $45,000 a year better off, on average, by $95 to $100 a week.
To foster successful and sustainable employment outcomes, we know that the basics must be in place – basics like housing, healthcare, and education. The Government takes a holistic approach to social development, recognising that just as social problems like unemployment have complex causes, so too the solutions need to take account of multiple factors.
The Healthy Housing programme here in Auckland is reducing overcrowding in state house properties and, as a result, reducing the incidence of associated diseases like tuberculosis and meningococcal disease.
Community Renewal projects are broad partnerships improving the standards of housing, employment, safety, health, and education in low socio-economic communities. The Primary Healthcare Strategy is providing access to quality, affordable healthcare, and targeting resources to the areas of greatest need.
And the Government has made serious investments in education, including the commitment to provide 20 hours a week free childcare at community-based childcare services for three and four year olds from 2007.
Rebuilding New Zealand’s social and economic landscape is not a quick or easy task. But it is one we have taken on, and one that is delivering results.
I want to close by once again congratulating all the people involved in Pacific Wave for your success in creating a better future for Auckland’s Pacifica community.
Pacific Wave is about much more than moving clients into jobs. It is about skills development and sustainable employment. It is about empowering a community to take charge of its own development. It is about all the members of the community working together to deliver grassroots solutions to local issues.
And, because the Pacific Wave team never lets up in their mission to boost Pacific employment, you can expect them to network relentlessly with everyone here for the rest of the morning!