Two determined Amberley siblings are crediting a youth employment intiative in helping turn their lives around.

Blair and Kelsey Milne say the Hurunui District Council’s Mayoral Taskforce for Jobs (MTFJ), which has helped them both gain employment, has been a big confidence booster amid some tough life challenges.

The Government-funded programme aims to connect local businesses with youth aged between 16-25, and those displaced by Covid-19, to create “sustainable employment opportunities”.

Blair (19) and Kelsey (20) have not had it easy.

Securing work has also meant the siblings can provide financial support for their family.

“Mum’s got five of us at home, on her own, so it’s quite tough on her sometimes,” Blair says.

“Our brother also has autism, and mum has quite bad anxiety, so she hardly leaves the house.”

The pair are also open about their own mental health struggles.

Blair and Kelsey were previously on the Work and Income (Winz) jobseeker benefit and both acknowledge it was difficult to secure employment before being redirected to the MTFJ.

“I went in for a meeting with my case manager one day and she asked if I wanted her to pass on my details to the council,” Blair says.

Kelsey got wind of the programme through her brother, after also toiling unsuccessfully to obtain employment.

“So now I work two jobs,” she says.

After joining the initiative she secured a part time job at a local cafe, where she has been since last year, and is also working at a restaurant in Amberley.

“Coming to the cafe it set my anxiety off a bit,” she says.

“The people here helped me settle and it made me feel safe. The people here are so lovely and welcoming.”

They had previous stints working on a farm, and at a Covid-19 vaccination drop-in clinic through the taskforce.

The programme also paid for them to sit their restricted driver license tests.

Blair worked within council’s maintenance team before moving to E-Cycle, a company which recycles electronic waste.

Most importantly, he found it did wonders for his mental health.

“Before I was working I was just sitting at home all day, doing nothing and everything just made me bored,” he says.

“Once I got a job, the stuff I used to do for fun…it was fun again.”

Blair says he is now doing an electrical engineering course at Ara Institute of Canterbury.

“I want to be a sparkie…they seem to be in quite high demand,” he says.

Kelsey has long term aspirations to become a pre-school teacher. But for now she says she is comfortable working in hospitality and “being around people”.

Hurunui Mayor Marie Black says the benefits of the taskforce were evident in the transformations she had observed.

“Blair and Kelsey have both come out the other side with confidence, sustainable employment and incredible attitudes toward their futures in the workforce.

“We are incredibly proud.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.