25 February 2019
A “dazed and confused” Dave McEwan got off a bus to start the inaugural Limited Service Volunteer (LSV) course at Devonport Naval Base in February 1984, wondering what he had signed up for.
Thirty-five years on he’s a Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) Captain who has commanded frigates, watched the sun rise over a remote outpost in East Timor and been part of a Singaporean-led team sitting on a United States destroyer chasing Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden.
Captain McEwan said he was in a bad spot when he finished high school in Auckland.
“I had lots of energy, a group of friends that probably weren’t the best influence, and I got into a bit of trouble,” he said.
“I was never bad bad but bad enough to get the attention of the local constabulary for doing some stupid, youthful things, and then that morphed into a quite a serious car accident.”
His parents packed him off to an aunt and uncle’s reasonably remote Waikato farm for some good, honest work, and while he was there the then Department of Labour phoned to ask him if he wanted to sign up for the inaugural LSV course.
“I took two minutes to mull this over, bounced it off my uncle, who said, ‘You’ve got nothing to lose, have you boy’, so I said, ‘Yes please’. The rest, as they say, is history.”
The opportunity Captain McEwan had will be available to more young people, with the numbers being taken into the scheme doubling to 1600 a year by the end of next year.
A 160-bed, $11 million purpose-built facility will open at Whenuapai in June and will offer five courses a year, while the existing facility at Burnham Military Camp will continue to cater for five intakes of 120 each year. In addition, an 80-bed facility at Trentham in Upper Hutt will offer four courses a year.
LSV is a Ministry of Social Development course, run in partnership with the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), and currently runs for six weeks, rather than the 20 weeks when Captain McEwan enrolled.
He is encouraging young New Zealanders looking for purpose to take the leap into the unknown that he took.
“Have faith and believe in yourself to succeed, because taking that first step and signing up is a success in itself,” he said.
“Making that first move will be an enormous enabler to everything else. LSV will allow you to find your own set of skills and give you the tools to help get a job.”
The huge growth in the course’s capacity is also opening opportunities for NZDF personnel interested in training youth. Assistant Chief of Defence Reserves Youth and Sports Captain Simon Rooke said 52 extra trainers and staff would be needed, mainly in Auckland (Whenuapai) and Wellington (Trentham), to add to the current 98 Youth Development Unit personnel.
“We’re working to form our training teams, get them into location and ensure they are fully prepared to provide the unique training required to support the LSV course,” Captain Rooke said.
“There are some unique skills sets Youth Development staff require. Our instructors really enjoy the variety and reward the role offers, and we’re always ready to welcome personnel who would like to make a positive contribution to LSV by joining the YDU team in Auckland, Wellington, or Christchurch.”
Captain McEwan said he wouldn’t hesitate if he had the opportunity to give back to the scheme through being a trainer and encouraged NZDF personnel to consider it.
“If anyone has the skills and empathy needed to encourage youth to find their mojo, do it.
“If just one person comes back to you in five or six years, and they’re on their way to establishing a successful career and they say thanks, that’s gold. You could go to your grave feeling pretty good about that.”