Principal rejects Ashburton adviser’s remarks on ‘authorized youth’


Wednesday's Ashburton District Council meeting was again held on Zoom.

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Wednesday’s Ashburton District Council meeting was again held on Zoom.

The principal of Mid-Canterbury’s largest secondary school dismissed controversial comments from an Ashburton councilor who suggested the district’s youth had acquired a “right.”

The principal of Ashburton College, Ross Preece, championed the attitudes and work ethic of the district’s youth and suggested that the rural sector had become an unappealing prospect for them in a “competitive recruiting market”.

Some elected members of the Ashburton District Council have withstood criticism after Councilor Lynette Lovett described many young people as “entitled” and lacking in stamina once they get jobs.

His comments followed the council’s report on the local economy, which noted that around 1,100 people aged 16 to 24 were “disengaged from employment, education and training,” despite many jobs. vacancies reported throughout the district.

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The report said the number of people receiving unemployment benefits in Mid-Canterbury rose 33.8% in the last quarter.

Preece took issue with Councilor Lovett’s remarks, pointing to the number of high school students employed in supermarkets and fast food outlets.

“These companies survive because of the student workforce and our hard-working students, so I don’t think the work ethic is necessarily lacking.”

He said several factors were compounding the problem, including the lack of public transportation in the district.

TOM LEE / STUFF

Brook Nettleton, at Bluegrass Contracting, is hosting an open house to find new drivers for the summer harvest season. (First published August 2020)

“A lot of 16 and 17 year olds don’t have a license, which allows them to hunt for work.”

Discussions had already taken place between the secondary school and rural groups regarding the recruitment of students on farms.

Preece said jobs in the agricultural sector, compared to apprenticeships in the trades, no longer had the same appeal to young people.

“Young people started working on farms two generations ago and maybe their goal was to buy a farm.

“Now, with farms costing in the millions and farms increasingly corporatized or handed down by family members, if you are a youngster who wants to buy a farm, the reality is that is not going to happen. “

Ashburton College principal Ross Preece, pictured in 2012, says work ethic is not a major issue for young people in the district.

Bruce Mercer / Stuff

Ashburton College principal Ross Preece, pictured in 2012, says work ethic is not a major issue for young people in the district.

Ashburton Deputy Mayor Liz McMillan politely distanced himself from the controversial views of his elected colleagues.

“I have a 16-year-old and a 14-year-old, and they both have jobs and they work hard,” she said.

Comments at the same meeting Wednesday by fellow city councilor Rodger Letham – who said “parenthood and education” was the problem, and that it was not a local government matter – added to the controversy .

McMillan, anxious not to escalate the issue further, explained that it was difficult to debate vigorously during a “very long” Zoom council meeting.

“We all have to find the button to raise our hand and once we raise our hand we have to wait our turn.”

Ashburton District Deputy Mayor Liz McMillan says she knows a lot of hard-working young people.

Adam Burns / LDR

Ashburton District Deputy Mayor Liz McMillan says she knows a lot of hard-working young people.

McMillan said it was up to the council to turn the unemployment issue into a positive.

“We get the numbers and the numbers, but you don’t know why this is happening. “

She recognized programs such as My Next Move, which emphasized driving licenses as a way to help students transition from high school to employment.

The council’s economic development team was in discussions with the Department of Social Development on this matter.

Discussions revealed barriers including drug and alcohol issues, mental health, motivation and lack of skills.


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