Learn to Earn

Doug the Digger creator Alistair McIntyre has been a driving force in encouraging young people to value education and work hard at school, no matter what kind of job they want to do when they grow up. Having struggled to see the point of schoolwork when he himself was a boy, heavy machinery-mad Alistair has used his success as a published writer to become involved in the Duffy's Books in Schools programme and Newspapers in Education. He now regularly tours the country with his real-life 'Doug'.
His ability to reach kids and inspire them to 'do their paperwork' and learn the safety procedures before they can get to the cool stuff of operating a full-sized digger has made Alistair an icon among primary aged kids all overNew Zealand. But this wasn't enough for Alistair. He wanted to find a way to keep helping kids as they entered the next phase of their lives: the crucial high school years, where so many lose motivation and simply drift through school.

imagesWhen you are 12, waiting until you are 17 or 18 feels like forever. Without something in between to help keep that momentum going, the effort kids start to make will just taper off.

"I made the wrong choices at school, and this is my way of helping others to avoid making the same mistakes." The early work through Doug the Digger could only take those kids so far, and Alistair always felt there was too long a time between 10 -12 years old and getting into an apprenticeship when they finish high school. "When you are 12, waiting until you are 17 or 18 feels like forever," says Alistair. "Without something in between to help keep that momentum going, the effort kids start to make will just taper off."
Alistair has already helped a few kids here and there, pulling in favours with some of his industry contacts to set up work experience days and placements in after-school jobs. Although this was limited to a mere handful of teenagers, they have all grown in confidence and earned the respect of the business owners who took a chance on them and gave them a go. Many have since turned these opportunities into real jobs. Inspired by the successes of these few, Alistair set about talking to people about his ideas on how to create something more substantial, involving greater numbers of young people interested in pursuing a career in Civil Industry and Infrastructure. Before long Alistair-with the help of full-time administrator Belinda Woods - had found the right people to make it happen.
Involved from the early stages was Craig Kennedy. A Senior Constable with the Whangarei PoliceYouth Aid unit, Craig recognised the value of creating a transition into work scheme for 15 to 16 year olds. He decided to become personally involved in an unofficial capacity, with the view that young people who have a purpose are less likely to lose heart and stray into areas where they might get into trouble. By opening up a pathway for those who might not ordinarily find direction through the usual academic pursuits, they were less likely to come to his attention in his official role further down the track. In Craig's opinion, any scheme that diverted these kids into something positive before this happens deserved support.
Colin Twyman, past District Governor for Lions Club in New Zealand and the Islands of the South Pacific worked with Alistair in 2009 to refine the concept, and together they put together a pilot programme in 2010, called Youth Into Industry. The 2010 pilot scheme ran for just three days and involved site visits at Goughs, Hirepool, Mainfreight and Truck Stops in Whangarei. The boys received hands-on work experience at each location over the three days, finishing off with the construction of a rock wall at the Whangarei Quarry Gardens. The response to the pilot scheme was positive from the industry representatives involved, encouraging them to support amore comprehensive version of the programme this year.
For 2011 the Youth Into Industry scheme has been designed as a more comprehensive training programme run over 26 weeks, and integrated with the Gateway Programmes already present in New Zealand High Schools. The Gateway Programme operates as a work experience-like form of practical career guidance, helping to open up possibilities for teenagers and get a head start into their industry of choice.
Students from three high schools in Whangarei; Tikipunga High, Kamo High and Whangarei Boys started the expanded scheme in February, working towards the completion of 11 NZQA accredited Industry Unit Standards (27NCEA credits) that will count towards their future studies in a wide range of occupations.
imagesThe Youth Into Industry programme serves to pre-qualify students, identifying those who show they have the dedication to see it through to completion.

Brad Flower from the New Zealand Contractors Federation Northland Branch speaks highly of the scheme, which addresses one of the main hurdles to introducing new talent to an industry with a rapidly aging pool of skilled workers.
"Potential employers take a risk when they take on an apprentice; you just don't know what you are going to get, so many are loath to go to the trouble and expense," says Brad. "The Youth Into Industry programme serves to pre-qualify students, identifying those who show they have the dedication to see it through to completion. It also has the added bonus of teaching some of the crucial safety aspects in an industry that is considered high risk for work-place injuries."
Fulton Hogan joined the group of contributing companies. Phil McKie from Fulton Hogan in Whangarei speaks about the company's involvement: "We put the students through our staff induction course to give them a real taste of what it's like when you first start work in our industry, with what is expected and the health and safety aspect of being on site." The students were also given a tour through Fulton Hogan's yard on Hewlett Street, where they looked at some of the plant on site and got taken through the pre-start checks staff expected from staff. "They learned a lot," saysPhil, "and it gave them a true sense of what is expected of them should they wish to pursue this as a career."
By the end of September, six students who stayed with the scheme right through to the end will have passed all 11 papers, ranging from level one workplace safety and employee timeliness through to level two small plant and equipment maintenance and level three identification of services on a construction site. Over the last seven months they have also completed a number of projects at the Quarry Gardens, upgrading walking tracks and cutting and laying metal onto a new vehicle access to the upper level of the gardens. Whangarei Quarry Gardens manager David Muir talks about the work the boys completed as part of their training. "They built a retaining wall, and resurfaced a section of road leading from the car park up to another level of the gardens," says David. "We also set them the task of creating a rock landscaping water feature called The Rivulet, which is about 40m long." The tasks set involved the use of a range of small machinery, and learning how to operate them safely and to good effect.
In the final weeks, the transformation was clearly on display, and not just limited to the Quarry Gardens. All involved can attest to the development of each of the students who completed the programme. Alistair is particularly proud of them. "They have evolved from a bunch of typical, introverted teenaged boys mumbling their words to their feet, not willing to raise their hand to ask questions into young men with a purpose," says Alistair. "It's not just industry skills being taught but interpersonal skills. The students gain the confidence to carry themselves better, and engage with people without feeling stink."
"They still have a lot to learn, but the difference now is they are more actively engaging in the learning process. They are stepping up as individuals, who will shake your hand, and look you in the eye when they speak, and that gives the employers in the industry the confidence to take a chance on them. That's the real success."
David Muir believes the Youth Into Industry programme to be a great success, even though only a portion of the original group stayed on until the end. "I look at it like a sports team. Every player wants to be an All Black but only the best can make the team. What we are left with is the cream off the top, and that's what the industry wants when they take on an apprentice." David attests that the Quarry Gardens is committed to supporting the Youth Into Industry programme each year now. "We will keep finding projects for them, either in the Quarry Gardens or elsewhere. "

Originally printed in "Learn 2 Earn - Youth Into Industry," Northern Advocate, October 2011