Waikato is on the verge of a youth employment crisis, with the leader of a new youth-focused strategy calling for employers and educators to join forces to create better work opportunities for young people.
Mary Jensen, of Smart Waikato, launched the trust’s BEST Youth initiative recently, with more than 80 business and education leaders gathering at Wintec House in Hamilton to hear its strategic approach to combating youth unemployment.
The programme is designed to buffer the region from a global employment crisis where almost 75 million young people world-wide are out of work.
“BEST Youth stands for Businesses Engaging Skilled and Talented Youth. We aim to encourage employers to offer more opportunities to youth, in the form of work experience, apprenticeships, internships and cadetships. The ‘earn while you learn’ scenario is best,” Mary said.
Smart Waikato will use its networks to link employers, tertiary institutions, schools and skilled and talented students to create an all-round ‘win’ for the workforce.
BEST Youth strategies include developing employer awareness of the youth unemployment crisis, undertaking a stocktake of what is already available in the region and making it easier for employers to offer work experience, apprenticeships and cadetships.
“We will also produce a magazine and social media specifically geared at young people. This will highlight best employment and training options for sustainable careers in a language and medium they relate to,” Mary said.
Smart Waikato recently produced a report on the International Labour Conference held in Geneva in June this year showing almost 75 million young people are out of work worldwide in 2012 with millions more in low value, insecure jobs.
Report findings prompted Smart Waikato to launch the youth initiative using seed funding from Wintec.
“The global crisis mirrors what is happening locally. There is a decline of the quality of jobs available for young people, a detachment from the labour market and difficult transitions to decent work. Graduate unemployment is surfacing as another challenge. There is an urgent need to reverse this trend,” Mary said.
Waikato is worse off than the rest of New Zealand because of its high population of young people and a higher population of Maori who are “over-represented” in statistics, Mary said.
“We need to work together now before we see a generation of young people lost to the labour market,” she said.
BEST Youth has the aim of becoming the New Zealand model generating viable opportunities for young people to transition to the workplace.
“We need this project to gather momentum quickly because there is a great need to address this crisis. We are working to develop funding strategies to further grow the project.”
“We also want to give young people a voice to promote their energy, creativity and technological savvy. It’s often these soft skills that make an employee valuable rather than technical know-how,” she said.
The Smart Waikato trust was founded in 2009 with the aim to become the New Zealand model for connectedness between education and the workplace.