Mana in mahi marking milestone of apprenticeships

By Whatitiri Te Wake

Māori unemployment has dropped to 5 percent, down from 7.8 percent last year, the government crediting it to schemes like Mana in Mahi 

However, there has been pushback and a renewed call to ensure such schemes are providing liveable incomes for whānau seeking work.

Today, at a successful warehouse company in South Auckland where most apprentices are Māori, became the backdrop for the government to announce a milestone it has met with its apprentice programme, Mana in Mahi.

Three years on from marking the extension of Mana in Mahi in Edgecumbe, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni visited Contract Warehousing to mark the milestone.

The programme helps Work & Income match employers with job seekers, providing them with apprenticeships and industry qualifications. Sepuloni says it's about getting the right match.

“Matching up the right person with the right employer in the right job so that there is more likelihood of success for that person and the employer as well,” she said.

Living wage minimum

Celebrations aside, the Greens are pushing back with social development spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March saying that the government has a responsibility to make sure everybody it has been putting into the schemes get paid at least the living wage.

“Right now, these schemes led by the Ministry of Social Development do not ensure that people are paid at least a living wage. The incredibly narrow focus of simply moving people into paid employment misses the opportunity to ensure people are supported into jobs that allow them to live with dignity and fulfill their aspirations,” he said

Despite latest figures showing an increase in the unemployment rate, there has been a drop for Māori and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it's testament to the government's commitment to communities most impacted by the labour market.

“To see yesterday that the numbers for Māori and Pasefika come down to 5.5 and 5.4 percent, that is exactly what we've been driving for as a government. We want unemployment to be low across the board but there are groups who experience greater disadvantage in the labour market,” she said.

Reductive approach

Mendez March says while that’s positive, both National and Labour have been really reductive in the way they talk about job seeker numbers and unemployment.

“The Greens are calling for a review of the Ministry of Social Development’s work seminars and employment schemes to ensure decent work is at the heart. Rather than threatening to cut people’s benefits off for not taking any job, no matter how unsuitable, we need to focus on the strengths of people seeking work.”