by Mel Martin

Once upon a time Catherine Hodges, a bright, young activist living in the Tron dared to dream up a world where every single person has access to education and empowerment that provides them a fair and just future.

Catherine’s way of contributing to achieving that long-term goal was forming the Young Workers Resource Centre in 1993; with plans to provide educational employment workshops to tertiary and secondary students, training institutes, and community groups.

Fast forwarding over the next 25-years and the many hands that have made the Centre light work, the YWRC is in a more financially stable position than it has ever been. We are delivering more education and reaching more students than ever before.

We’re back in the nice office (with natural light!) decorated by previous YWRC Manager Sonya Church, now that it’s been earthquake-strengthened along with the rest of our beloved Waikato Trade Union Centre.

My tenure with the Centre began in 2014 when I was appointed as the fixed-term, part-time Educator to work alongside then Manager Tony Stevens. I had just finished my graduate studies in Communications and was completely fresh to the world of non-profit organisations.

I was in for a wild ride!

Between working in schools with young people and diving into a career that saw me take part in General Election campaigns designed to get youth out and voting, 2014 was the year that saw the awakening of my political inclinations.

Tony had just succeeded Kylie Zinsli in the role of Manager after having been the Educator himself, and so a dynamic duo was born. That year we delivered 138.5 workshops to high school students, training institutes, and a bunch of community groups. To this day it’s the all-time workshop delivery record, which I’m (not-so) quietly really proud of!

During my second year (and second fixed-term, part-time contract) we managed to secure funding to turn my role into a permanent one, which was yet another achievement for the YWRC having survived from one successful community funding application to the next since its inception.

Under strong governance, and with committed staff we were finally able to take another step forward in offering a second full-time position for the first time ever.

It was not long after that, that Tony left us for new adventures in the union movement, and we met Erina Stockman who pulled us out of the dark-ages and modernised most of our ancient paper-based practises. (I was reluctant to let go of the old, paper diary in favour of a digital Outlook calendar…)

With no new job descriptions, no concise list of duties, and no one who had been in our shoes beforehand Erina and I fleshed out the roles that would become the full-time Business Manager and Service Manager.

We created job descriptions, we delegated tasks and responsibilities, we developed new education, we successfully acquired funding, we negotiated new contracts, and introduced a YWRC Pay Scale. We instigated an update and overhaul of the Strategic Plan to account for the goals and milestones we had reached and surpassed.

Today, it’s 2018.

I am still the Service Manager and in my fifth year as paid staff for the Young Workers Resource Centre. Erina found herself called to the union movement as well; we were joined temporarily by Zanian Steele, who was later succeeded by the return of Tony Stevens in the role of Business Manager.

We’ve just celebrated the YWRC’s 25th Anniversary, the dynamic duo are back together, and the Centre is running at the heights of its capacity.

With the development of a new Strategic Plan, where the Centre’s future will take us is anyone’s guess! But I do know that the YWRC will continue to change lives and bring about many more happily ever after’s.

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