Youth Services, what’s that?
It’s a question that Youth Coach, Amber Thwaites hears all the time.
Amber has been a youth coach for the Youth Services programme at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa for just over a year now.
“I think when people hear the words ‘Youth Services’ a lot of them are deterred, it sounds quite formal,” Amber says.
But the programme has a very simple purpose and it’s not formal at all.
It’s a voluntary programme offered by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in parts of the Waikato region to tautoko (support) eligible rangatahi (youth) that are Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) or are eligible for the Youth Payment or Young Parent Payment.
“A youth coach supports youth, whatever that looks like. When we go through our initial meet and greets with the whānau and rangatahi we go through what the rangatahi want to achieve and go from there,” Amber explains.
“We offer support for rangatahi to help them achieve their goals, whether it’s educational, work or training based, or personal. It’s really based on what is going on with them and what they want to achieve.”
The tautoko offered can include things like counselling, help with creating a CV and cover letters, job applications and interviews, acting as an advocate with family or school, through to options like driving lessons to obtain a driver's licence, alternative education options, certificate and qualification options, general health and well-being options.
Having a dedicated youth coach to reach out to at any time helps rangatahi build their capabilities and their confidence.
Feedback from those who have been part of the programme is overwhelmingly positive, with one recent rangatahi expressing that “I feel privileged that I was a part of these services”.
Even once the programme is explained, there can still be resistance to engaging with the service and all it has to offer. Amber encourages those who may feel hesitant about participating to consider this:
“Knowledge is power. We all have different skills and tools that we can help others to put in their kete. Sometimes you may not have something specific that your child or family member needs, so utilise the services that are available to you, utilise us. Give it a go – you never know what might come from it!”
Kaiako, whānau, and anyone with connections to rangatahi in the Waikato region can get in touch with Youth Services to see if their rangatahi is eligible.