ZB

Taxpayers forked out $800,000 for jobs expos - only 126 attended

Author
Aaron Dahmen,
Publish Date
Mon, 9 May 2022, 7:29am
Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni. (Photo / Mark Mitchell)
Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni. (Photo / Mark Mitchell)

Taxpayers forked out $800,000 for jobs expos - only 126 attended

Author
Aaron Dahmen,
Publish Date
Mon, 9 May 2022, 7:29am

Taxpayers have forked out almost one million dollars for 'Zoom' job expos run by the Ministry of Social Development.

Newstalk ZB can reveal the events failed to fire, with just 126 people taking part since the first pilot two years ago.

That works out to $6,626 per attendee.

Even Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni accepts the expos haven't "taken off", but is putting the hefty cost down to building a new digital platform.

National says the Labour Government's "spraying money" in the hope some of it will work.

The party's social development spokesperson says cash is going down the drain.

"Not only is it a gross waste of money... it hasn't supported individuals into work."

In response to written questions by National, Sepuloni said the first pilot of the Virtual Job Expo was held for 30 job seekers in October 2020, and involved staff running a seminar to recruit for Ministry roles in the Nelson region.

The second event in March 2021 was a "tactical response" to the Auckland lockdown, featuring five seminars with 11 attendees.

A registration and invitation phase was added to the third and final pilot in August 2021, with four seminars hosted for 85 people by the Ministry and recruiting businesses.

Ministry for Social Development employment group general manager Hugh Miller said the expos connected job seekers with employers, who could then set up follow-up meetings and interviews.

He said the online platform included features to create and view profiles, host and attend video sessions (group seminars or one-on-one), and shortlist candidates for job vacancies.

"It also required a robust level of security to protect the privacy of those using it and the information being shared."

Zoom was integrated for video calls.

In total, $835,000 went towards the programme, a cost that the Opposition's lambasted as "appalling."

But Sepuloni told Newstalk ZB it's "not a complete waste of money", as some of it was spent on IT systems.

'There are elements of the digital platform that can be used moving forward, there are learnings that can be taken from the development of this... and it's an area that we do need to grow moving into the future", she said.

"Did this one completely hit the mark? No."

Sepuloni said the job expos "probably" won't happen again in the same form, and the Ministry of Social Development's "acknowledged that using the platform for that purpose wasn't as successful as they would have hoped."

"They do need to try things."

National's social development spokesperson Louise Upston's not buying it, reiterating her party's line that Labour's "addicted to spending."

"Zero accountability, [and] zero understanding of what's actually going to support people into employment", she said.

"We're talking [about] $6,600 per attendee... just for them to turn up at a Zoom meeting."

"I'm sorry, that shows an appalling lack of understanding of what has to be done."

The Ministry of Social Development's confirmed to Newstalk ZB that the virtual job expo pilots have now ended, as they were developed in response to Covid-19 alert level restrictions.