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Team spotlight: Destination Trades

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The three words I would use to describe Destination Trades are fierce, resilient and capable, with the entire founding team having all of these traits in spades (if you’ll excuse the pun).

We met Destination Trades when they applied for Launchpad Work, Ākina’s accelerator for social enterprises who are helping those who face barriers to employment. Right from the get go this team has always been a force to be reckoned with, constantly seeking answers from us, while always being up for any challenges we posed them. This may be partly down to their experience, and partly down to the clear vision they all share for what they are doing and, most importantly, why.  Destination Trades are looking to increase women’s participation in the male dominated, well paid, and high demand trades industry, and they are looking to accelerate their activity towards achieving this goal.

Destination Trades was founded by Christina Rogstad, Veronica White and Owen Lingard in August 2016. Christina and Veronica are both from corporate backgrounds, and Owen is a qualified Electrician with a passion for teaching. A pretty good founding combination to see their goal become reality.

And they are doing this by running 8 – 10 week programmes for women, and only women, to get them ready to take the next step towards working and flourishing in a variety of trades. This is preparation for careers which women have previously been told, and most believed were, off limits. The program focuses on developing the skills, attitudes and mindsets to be successful and comfortable in these male-dominated environments.

What Destination Trades is doing is different. They are outside the system and purposefully taking a very different approach. The fact is the existing model of long term training before entering a trade is not working for Industry and it is not working for women. Some of the students who enrolled in this programme had never even picked up a hammer before they started, but just because they haven’t picked up a hammer doesn’t mean they are unsuitable for a career in trades. And as Destination Trades are already discovering, once their students get familiar with these tools and build some basic skills and confidence, new careers for them, and new futures for their families, suddenly are not only possible but right in front of them. The impact of the programme is life changing.

Across the programme the women are empowered to learn not only the fundamental skills of a variety of trades, but also supported through the lifestyle change that many face going from other types of employment, or from being unemployed, into the trades. Then, with this knowledge, they can make an informed decision about which industry they may like to work in. And as we have seen even in these early days some students receive job offers before the end of the program.

As we all know  there is a crisis level skills shortage in trades in New Zealand. 50,000 new tradespeople are needed now and that is only going to get worse as the Baby Boomers retire in big numbers in the coming years . There are 130,000 women seeking employment. And yet, the number of women in trades has not increased from 2% since 1972. Have a conversation with the Destination Trades team though, and you’ll start to think this number is about to change.

Of the 20 students that started their first 10 week course, 3 received job offers before the program had even finished. Several others got work placements. And all received first hand practical experience from a variety of industry experts. Prior to the program, none had experience in the trades industry.

After such a strong start, the Destination Trades founders are now well into planning their next program, whilst also beginning to amplify the discussion around this problem within the industry, as they are the first to admit they cannot solve this problem on their own. Instead the team are working more and more with various industry partners to ensure that everyone is aware of the opportunities, and are beginning to take active steps to correct the imbalance.

One example of this was Gerard Roofs, providers of pressed steel roofing which requires a high attention to detail to do well. Gerard Roofs worked with the Destination Trades students to show them how to roof a gazebo they’d made throughout the course. The result? 1) Gerard were extremely impressed in how quickly the students picked up the skill, 2) despite it’s challenges (working at heights and physical work), many of the students are now looking for a career in roofing, and 3) one of the students was actually offered a full time role with Aspect Roofing, one of Gerard’s Distributors following this session. A pretty good outcome from a few hours of a business’s time, and an outcome that the Destination Trades team want to replicate with other Industry players.

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But through all this, it’s important to remember that Destination Trades are a fresh eyed start up, despite what their results may lead you to think. And accordingly they’ve learnt a lot, and are iterating future programs because of this. A simple example is the timing of their course. Initially they made the days 9am to 2.30pm so that it would be easier on the women who are  mothers. They discovered, however, that this just delayed the inevitable challenge of adjusting to work when they got a job, and thus didn’t prepare them for work as well as they could. Because of this the days are now 8am-4pm to better reflect working life, and the tutors help the women make the  transition to work ready throughout the course, not just at the end.

Destination Trades have trademarked themselves as an extremely competent team with an ambitious list of goals. Through Launchpad Work we will be helping them accelerate towards these goals in a variety of ways, including connecting them with industry experts, brokering support, and providing them with mentors and tailored business support through an Ākina Venture Manager.

Watch this space. And the 2% figure. With a bit of support from industry, this team could go a long way to changing the lives of many women by getting more doing great work in these trades.

Social Enterprise Disruption

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We have ambitious aims for Launchpad Work. First and foremost, we want to support the 8 amazing social enterprises going on this six month journey with us to accelerate their growth and maximise their positive impact. Following closely behind that is a desire to shine a spotlight on social enterprise and the impact it can have, contributing to a conversation that is only just starting here in New Zealand.

Conveniently for us, these two goals complement each other nicely. A crucial part of any organisation’s growth is growing awareness of that organisation, the sector it is in, and why it needs to be there. Launchpad Work’s three part public speaker series brings together some of New Zealand’s leaders in the social enterprise space to share their insights and experiences with both the participants of the program and the general public who attend.

‘Social Enterprise Disruption:’ the first speaker event, catalysed a conversation around social enterprise, its potential, and some of the awesome enterprises who are creating significant impact here in New Zealand. Vic Crone, CEO of Callaghan Innovation and Chair of Figure.NZ (a kiwi social enterprise which helps people understand data) observed that the potential of social enterprise is something that people across government and business in this country are now waking up to:

“Social enterprise is unique because it understands community in a way other sectors cannot. There is increasing understanding of what social enterprise can achieve; the wider outcomes and their impact, and the fact that social enterprise is here only to deliver community outcomes.

Before challenging us to do what it takes to move the sector forward:

“…it’s important for social enterprise and government, in particular, to come together, and to foster an environment in New Zealand that supports social enterprise. With currently over $17bn social investment globally – and a predicted one trillion over the next decade – we need to be thinking about how we tap into that global investment, because even just a small percentage of that could mean amazing things for New Zealand.”

Ākina’s very own CEO, Alex Hannant, then took the stage to outline how Ākina is working to build a system of support around social enterprises in New Zealand, with the Launchpad Work programme being one example of Ākina’s work in this space.

“It takes a village to raise a social enterprise. Launchpad Work provides an environment where social ventures can get support to connect to new partnerships and tap into new funding and trading opportunities.”

Levi Armstrong spoke passionately about his experience as a social entrepreneur. A participant in the first Launchpad programme with his venture, Patu Aotearoa: a gym for Māori focused on improving health and wellbeing. Patu’s aim is to create achievable, affordable and accessible exercise programmes for anyone, to help address the obesity epidemic he was seeing amongst his people.

“We are the third fattest country in the OECD. We believe we are fighting a war, and we want to fight it together. We’re about bringing people together and exercise is a benefit that comes out of that. Our aim at the beginning of our time with LaunchPad was to take Patu national, and we’ve achieved that. We’ve created a movement, spreading our ‘gang’ across Aotearoa to create positive change, and social enterprise was the only way I could see to achieve what we’ve done.”

Having opened 12 Patu Aotearoa franchises around New Zealand, it’s fair to say Levi and his team are well on their way to achieving their aims, and they attribute part of this success to the social enterprise model they’ve chosen to adopt.

The audience then had the opportunity to ask our speakers questions, followed by some networking time. Going by the fact that there were still people in the room talking an hour after we had planned to finish the event, it’s safe to say the event definitely turned up the volume on the conversation around social enterprise, and we hope this will only get louder at future events and more broadly throughout New Zealand.

If you’d like to attend the next Launchpad Work speaker event, please click here for more information.

A series of unexpected events

To launch Launchpad Work, Ākina’s accelerator for social enterprises, we asked the eight participating ventures to go through an intensive two day workshop where they got to know each other, themselves, and decide what they wanted to achieve throughout the six month program. We’re extremely pleased to say that 18 hours, 67 people, and 52 cups of coffee later, Launchpad Work is officially underway, and the ventures are already finding value in some surprising places.

We designed the days with two key goals in mind:

  1. Goal setting: This was the start of a six month long acceleration program. We need the teams to come out of this with a strong and ambitious direction for what they want to achieve over the coming months.
  2. Cohort bonding: We wanted the cohort to get to know each other really well, creating mutual respect and accountability between each other.

But it led to a lot more than that too, with the teams finding some of their primary takeaways in places we did not expect, but places that all businesses can find if they just allow the time.

1) People have more skills than they let on

The first of these was the value you can find in just talking to other people in this sector. Not only about their venture, but also about their life and experiences. Back when they were kids, none of the Launchpad participants said “when I grow up, I want to run an employment oriented social enterprise”. They all had very different dreams, which led them down very different paths, and taught them all very different skills. Despite this, each of those paths has now led them to the social enterprise space, and even into the same room for two days. It didn’t take long for the ventures to realise that this variety of skills acquired in previous careers was both interesting and helpful, and gave them access to expertise they hadn’t had before.  

By having two days together, the participants had time to pause, step back, and ask questions beyond ‘what’s your day job’. In doing so they found new things in common, new areas of expertise, and much more value than they ever expected.

2) Talent follows the brave

Social enterprise isn’t easy. Especially when starting one involves leaving an often much more comfortable job to embark on something completely new. Thankfully, day one of Kickoff closed with a reminder of the sheer volume of extremely experienced people who want to support this sector. This was through our mentor ‘matchmaking’ session, where we had over 30 experienced professionals come to meet the ventures and get an idea of who they would like to mentor throughout the program. After a long day energy was starting to wain before this session, but the enthusiasm from both the ventures and mentors to learn more about each other and build relationships really finished day one on a high.

If you are brave, and challenge yourself for the good of those around you, there is a very high chance there are extremely talented people nearby who are willing to help you. Launchpad participants luckily had 30 vying for their attention, but there is nothing to stop other organisations making a phone call, arranging a coffee, and simply asking for help.

3) You can see better from a distance.

The other key takeaway from Kickoff was one we all are familiar with, but seem to forget far too often. Participating in Kickoff for two days meant the ventures were given the time to step back from the operational running of their startup social enterprise. We forced them to take the blinders off, and look all around them to make sure they hadn’t veered off course at all.

From this removed perspective, the ventures asked themselves ‘what are we doing?’, ‘what do we want to be doing?’, and ‘how are we going to get there?’. Not only did this allow them to take stock of what they have achieved up until now, but it also enabled them to plan into the future with the time and focus this requires. Consequently, they were able to think about their venture a lot more clearly, creating goals that really aligned with their overarching purpose and mission, rather than any immediate priority.

Finding the time to step back is often really difficult, but the clarity doing so brings your business comfortably outweighs any inconvenience, and is a process the teams really appreciated.

Throughout Launchpad Work we’ll be pausing to check in on things pretty regularly, and we know this time will be much needed in between the constant coaching and support they will be receiving throughout the program. While this won’t be to the extent we did at Kickoff, we will still be taking stock to ensure the direction all of the teams are accelerating in is the direction the participants founded the company to go in. Watch this space to keep an eye on how they get there.

Launchpad Work teams announced!

We’re delighted to let you know that the teams that will be joining us for the Launchpad Work accelerator are (drum roll please)…

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Mentor applications now open

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Mentoring is one of the most important aspects of any accelerator, and Launchpad Work is no different.

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How to apply for Launchpad Work

launchpad-primary-logoIt’s pretty easy really. To apply for Launchpad Work, just follow these simple steps: Continue reading “How to apply for Launchpad Work”

Social enterprise spotlight: Take My Hands

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Social enterprise spotlight: Kilmarnock Enterprises

Continue reading “Social enterprise spotlight: Kilmarnock Enterprises”

What makes a great application?

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