Whanganui District Employment Training Trust (WDETT) has appointed a well-established Whanganui townsman to connect school leavers with local businesses.
An additional Employment Facilitator for 100% SWEET, Ron Armstrong is focused on linking with Whanganui schools to identify students that can be introduced to local businesses through industry visits, work experience or employment.
100% SWEET is one of four initiatives developed by Whanganui District Employment Training Trust (WDETT) to match the skills and training needs of employers, with the potential of local people. With support from Whanganui & Partners and other sponsors, 100% SWEET works to achieve the goal of “100% of School leavers in Whanganui engaged in Education, Employment and Training.” The service is free.
Chief Executive of WDETT, Sally Ross is pleased to bring Ron’s experience into the fold; “Ron will be working as an industry connection and a work broker - facilitating work opportunities or work experience opportunities for school leavers seeking employment.”
Ron is a long-time “Whanganui person”. He was born in Raetihi and lived at National Park until moving to Whanganui at age nine. He attended Carlton School, Rutherford Intermediate and Whanganui High School
before embarking on a long and successful career with NZ Railways (now KiwiRail). He started in their commercial and transport logistics field, then latterly 28 years with the marketing team, as Regional Sales Executive. Career highlights include managing the pulp train out of Karioi, establishing a rail link for bagged milk powder between Whanganui city and the industrial hub at Castlecliff, and re-instigating regular log trains in the lower North Island.
He also owned the Four Square store in Springvale for a few years during the 1980s, notably before major supermarkets had arrived in Whanganui. It was a time when the local superette was a community hub; “I owned a Four Square, and I was in marketing with KiwiRail, so you meet businesses and you meet people. I suppose you could say my whole life has been about meeting people.”
Seven years ago he joined Vision Manawatu, now Palmerston North’s Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA). As their transport industry consultant, his focus was freight, transport, warehousing and logistics, ultimately highlighting staffing needs. That work evolved into a role with another arm of CEDA, Talent Central, working with school leavers and the Work Ready portfolio, enabling school leavers to be better ready to transition into the workplace.
“You do have to get certain students work-ready. Attitude is the biggest thing, and time management.
It’s also about fairness from both sides. It’s about youth being work-ready, and industry being youth-ready. School leavers today are different to those in previous generations who were focused on pleasing the boss, and doing what the boss said. Now, young people question things more. It’s not wrong to question, but they have to know how to do it in a respectful way.”
“There are heaps of neat kids out there, and when you can help kids get into employment, it’s pretty cool. There are also some less-fortunate kids that need extra support, and they are an even bigger reward when you get them placed into work. And there are some fantastic businesses that are very generous.”
In Whanganui, Ron will work with schools to identify students that are looking to leave school and find a business that suits what they want to do, or introduce them to a business that already has a staffing need. He knows a lot of Whanganui businesses already, but aims to build up his portfolio even more; "Ideally, the number of opportunities available would match the number of school leavers each year, so as leavers come out of school I could put them where they want to be straight away.”
“My work is making contact and meeting people so that I can link students firstly with what they want to do, or take them around to businesses to show them what’s available. There are heaps of employment opportunities.”
“It’s all about the young people, and just giving them a helping hand. Sometimes you can do the smallest of things that make the biggest of differences. That’s what it’s all about - just helping people along. Working with kids is great, and with businesses.”
“I am really impressed with how WDETT structure themselves, how they act in the workplace, and what WDETT is doing in Whanganui. They are very much in the community. Certainly with what I see here in Whanganui compared to other regions that I know, WDETT is doing a really good job. I’ve got no doubts about the future - it’s good to be working with them. And as long as you’ve got school leavers that you can place into jobs, this work will be successful.”