Youth Advocate Seeks Employers to Inspire

By Karen Hughes

Angela Beagley has had good mentors in her life, and is taking cues from them to open up opportunities for young people in Whanganui.

As Employment Facilitator for 100% SWEET, she is focused on connecting school leavers with meaningful education, employment and training options.

100% SWEET is one of three 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.”

Angela works closely with local businesses, tertiary education providers, and secondary schools to assist school leavers with moving to employment, relevant training or education pathways. She explains,“When rangatahi leave school, some of our school leavers are not work-ready. Our role is to help rangatahi become work-ready by giving them the tools they need to move from the school routine, into the world of work and society. When we give rangatahi tools and knowledge, they become confident.”

She says instilling confidence is key, and recalls a defining moment in her sixth form year at Kelston Girls College, where a teacher told her she was capable of doing more, “That one teacher saw potential in me. She was fantastic. Having someone come in and speak into my life, it helped me realise that it was time for me to start having an action plan.”

She admits though, that at that time, she lacked direction, “I had no career aspirations, no plan. Nobody had ever spoken to me about such a thing.” She left school and volunteered as a junior youth leader at local churches, “It kept me busy and I enjoyed being a role model for young people from troubled homes. We were helping them to become better people regardless of their circumstances.”

Completing a small business course allowed her to achieve NCEA Levels, and she went on to gain her first ‘real job’ in a debt collection agency.  She remembers fondly her first manager, “I was really grateful that I had the boss that I did, because she was really supportive - a young person’s kind of person.”

Several years working in the financial sector followed, including many in administrative support roles. Then, raising four children with her husband, the pair ran a coffee cart business in Turakina for around eight years until she upskilled with an online business Diploma and returned to the administration field.

Now, she is pleased to be working with youth again. She enjoys exposing young people to new ideas, and helping them find a direction, “We need to broaden our kid’s horizons to the employment opportunities that are out there, otherwise their career scope is very narrow.”

In schools, she works mostly with the Year 11 to Year 13 age group to deliver a Work Ready programme focusing on employability skills and tools: how to write effective CVs and cover letters, interview skills, and important work issues like health and safety, alcohol and drugs, and budgeting.  She works with youth aged 16 and over. Candidates don’t have to be currently in school, and anyone can set up an appointment, “We’re all about transitions; from school to work, sometimes from work to work, or from work to education. That whole transition space is where I help our kids.”

Exposure to career choices is what she feels kids are needing most, and she is hoping to get more businesses on board to offer work experience opportunities or even just a walk-through, “We’re asking businesses if they can accommodate more workplace tours for our young people, to come in and check out what they do. We’ve got to get young people inspired, and kids need to see what’s out there, to know what it is they want to do.”

As well, the positive encouragement from adults is crucial, “I had many mentors in my life along the way. They played that ‘I actually care about you’ role. They really influenced my life, and helped me decide that I need to be the same way, for young people. It makes the journey to becoming an adult more supportive.”

Angela believes 100% SWEET is a vital service, “It was needed when I was young. That first course that I did, enabled me with the employability skills package, and I know I wouldn’t have secured a job without that. Most of our young people need people like us to help them out with those tools.”  She believes the way in which she engages with young people is the difference she can bring, “I have a personal mantra which is to speak greatness into the lives of our young people. They all have potential. They just need to have people in their lives - like I did - to get alongside them and show them that they have value.”

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