Featured in Stuff:

An unlikely crew may provide the solution to Manawatū’s pending construction boom – beneficiaries.

There has never been a better time in Manawatū to pull on a fluro and hard hat, with projects totalling $4 billion in the pipeline, such as a revamp of Ōhakea Air Base, and construction of the Manawatū-Hawkes Bay highway and the Ōtaki to north Levin Expressway.

Kiwi Can Do aims to get unemployed people into the trades and has found early success in its five-year history.

Chairwoman Fran Wilde announced the programme’s expansion to the region in Palmerston North on Thursday. It will recruit people from Dannevirke to Whanganui.

It works with the Ministry of Social Development to pair jobseekers, aged 18-25, with actively retired tradesmen, who have become affectionately known as “Dad’s Army”. 

Designed to help those who had “fallen between the education cracks”, Wilde said the programme was targeted at those who needed a hand to get into work. 

“We have the kids wanting to get out of bed in the morning.” 

Kiwi Can Do managing director Iain Morrison at the launch in Palmerston North

The ministry’s central region commissioner Katie Brosnahan said there was a misconception that all beneficiaries wanted was to sit at home and burden the public purse.

That was not the case and among them were many “hidden gems” who just need an opportunity to jump into work.

“Most people do want to work, but they need some support to get work ready. The classroom environment was not for them and the university path was no good.”

Kiwi Can Do put away pens and pencils, and instead offered a range of trades, from painting and scaffolding to building.

Its managing director Ian Morrison said trial programmes in Wellington and Auckland had proven successful.

“Since times began, older people have been teaching younger people how to do stuff. And it’s on that that we’ve modelled Kiwi Can Do.”

The launch was attended by representatives from Mitre 10, Deco and Humphries Construction.