Growing Our Region

Engaging with youth in Whanganui

100% SWEET is a small organisation making a big difference in Whanganui. It’s a community initiative set up by the Whanganui District Employment Training Trust (WDETT), with one employee – Jason Shailer – who has been on board for the last three years. 
100% SWEET was established due to a need to engage youth in employment and education beyond school, which has previously been very low in the Whanganui District, alongside an aging workforce. Their goal is to have 100% of school leavers in Whanganui in education, employment or training.

Jason works with schools, education providers and businesses directly. Within schools, he delivers work readiness programmes and spends time with students and their parents to create a plan for beyond school.

“When a student wishes to leave school early, it’s really important we sit down together to look at their options,” says Jason.

​“We can match them with the right training providers, making sure the right students end up in the right place.”

100% SWEET also tracks approximately 600 students as they leave school each year. Jason works with those who need pastoral follow up and can continue to work with them until the age of 25.

Jason also acts as an employment broker, finding youth who can meet the needs of local employers. Many go on placement and employers provide feedback on how they went.

For businesses it is a free resource, establishing where the gaps are, and ensuring training providers understand where the shortages lie, now and into the future.

“Not only do young people need to be work ready, businesses and training providers need to be ready for them – making sure they are engaged and can see a clear pathway,” says Jason.

The toughest challenge for 100% SWEET is resourcing, they are dependent on grants and funding from the Whanganui District Council. That said, they were recently successful in receiving support from the Provincial Growth Fund and have advertised for another staff member to join their team.