On the 10th of December the Hon. Peeni Henare – Minister of Youth Development – officially opened the YMCA’s technology centre for the youth of Christchurch.
The 4C Centre, located inside the YMCA at 12 Hereford Street, will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and will be free to access for young people aged 15 – 24.
The YMCA has intentionally democratised access to technology and mentors that will enable young people to develop skills and talents for future entrepreneurialism or employment.
With thanks to the Todd Foundation who have donated $1 million for this project, the YMCA has created a first in New Zealand if not the world. This is a technology centre created specifically for young people, and, even more important, will be focused on attracting young people who are currently not in education, employment or training.
The Todd Foundation’s purpose is to ‘resource communities to create sustainable, long-term social change for children, young people and families.’ The YMCA intends to create a long-term legacy from Todd’s extremely generous grant by doing exactly that.
4C stands for Curiosity, Communication, Creativity and Critical Thinking – the four key competencies identified through research to be crucial for success in the future, as globally we experience exponential change in technology and the impact it will have on the way people, businesses and communities interact.
This is not about entertainment but about self-determination through learning and creating. Users of the centre will be invited to deliver on projects put forward by industry.
Key to the theory of success of the 4C Centre is that those who lack the confidence or resources to gain a formal qualification will have the opportunity to learn and demonstrate skills and talents through real-world problem solving.
A key enabler of the project is Aurecon, a global engineering and infrastructure advisory company which has collaborated with the YMCA to deliver the centre from concept to reality. Aurecon will provide initial training and support as well as ongoing projects, mentoring and workshops. Aurecon is excited to be part of this project and have been key to the development of the space since the YMCA first proposed it as a unique way to create employment pathways for young people who have not succeeded in mainstream schooling. Carl Devereux, Aurecon’s Regional Director – New Zealand, says “Youth unemployment rates are significant and we all owe it to our future generations to try harder. There is a wealth of talent out there that is not being used to its full potential. We believe that with the challenges that are facing our world today and tomorrow, our talent pools need to reflect the diversity that exists in our schools, universities and communities. Diversity of thought provides the best innovative solutions to the problems that our communities face.”
ChristchurchNZ has made a core part of their vision the idea that Christchurch is innovative and progressive in the area of technology and entrepreneurialism. However, for young people who do not (or cannot) access tertiary training there are many barriers to success. The YMCA recognises that the ‘next generation’ are the people for whom the city is being built for, and young people, both now and in the future, are a crucial part of the economy of both Christchurch and NZ.
Chief Executive of the Christchurch YMCA Josie Ogden Schroeder says “The YMCA believes in the power of young people to create a better future for humanity. We also believe that while we celebrate difference, the world should be intolerant of inequity. That all young people in Aotearoa deserve their best chance to be their best self.”
From an equity perspective, the opportunities to be entrepreneurial are largely confined to those who have access to both technology and mentoring. If this access is not available, it becomes very challenging, if not impossible, for a young person to invent and create prototypes so they can be tested to market. “This is a huge barrier for many young people who have lots of great ideas and talent” says Ogden Schroeder.
“This is about changing the narrative. You don’t have to have a formal education to offer solutions to today’s problems, or to contribute to business endeavour, or for that matter, to invent something completely new. You just need the right opportunity. We have hundreds of young people in this city who are not optimistic about their future employability. The 4C centre aspires to fix that problem.”
The centre will also be accessible by community groups and schools who would like to use the space for creativity, learning and discovery for children and young people. These groups will be tutored/mentored by the 4C centres founding members – who are all young people themselves – and who will also set the operational guidelines, culture and ethos for the centre as it evolves..
The 4C Centre will be equipped with 3D printers, CnC machines, robotics, augmented and virtual reality equipment, work spaces, laptops, computers and more.