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Transition from school to work - Maharey Speech

Hon Steve Maharey Speech Notes

Time to pick up the pace: the transition from school to work - building partnerships and pathways

Comments at the launch of the City of Manukau Education Trust (COMET) publication, Business and Schools in Manukau. Manukau City Council chambers.


Your worship Sir Barry Curtis, invited guests, friends.

Thank you for the invitation and the opportunity to meet again with you in Manukau City today.

It is nearly two years now since I gave a speech to a forum sponsored by the City of Manukau Education Trust. That forum was about school-work links, and this event today indicates the significant progress that has been made within this community in building those links.

The Government too, for its part, has made good progress on a number of initiatives that I foreshadowed in May 2000 - but while much has been done, there is still more to do, and so, while I want to talk about what we have achieved, much of it jointly, I also want to talk about what we still have on the agenda.

When I was leaving school you could get an entry-level job and perform very well at it without the kind of literacy and numeracy skills that we require today.

Old jobs have gone, and those that are there require levels of skill and knowledge at a much higher threshold level than was previously the case. We can conceive of the “old’ labour market as a pyramid, with a broad low skilled base tapering up to a high-skill, high-knowledge apex - the shape of the “new’ labour market is much more akin to that of a triangle.

Young people and today’s labour market

When we look from the vantage point of the labour market back at the population of our young people what do we see?

We see that approximately 20% of all 15-19s have very low or no qualifications and there is a marked ethnic dimension to the problem: in 2000, 35% of Maori left school with no/low qualifications, compared to 26% of Pacific Island students and 14% of Pakeha/Europeans.

Census data show that, in 1996, more than a quarter of all 16 year olds (around 14,000) were outside education and full-time employment. Remarkably, only 5% of 16 year olds were in full-time paid work. For Maori 16 year olds, the data show that more than a third (3,700) were outside education and full-time employment.

Of all 17 year olds, a quarter (12,700) were outside education and full-time employment. Just 14% of 17 year olds were in full-time employment. For Maori 17 year olds, just under a third (3,200) were outside education and full-time work.

Even allowing for the likelihood that some part-time employment will lead to full-time jobs over time, these data indicate that a quarter of all 16 and 17 year olds (26,700 young people), including a third of Maori 16 and 17 year olds (6,900 young people) were outside education and full-time employment, and arguably, at risk of failing to make a successful transition from school to adult life. They are the group most likely to have no school qualifications and no prospects of improving their circumstances without sustained intervention.

It is evident that the labour market cannot readily absorb the present volume of low skilled school leavers. Relatively few 16 and 17 year olds can realistically expect to leave school and get a full-time job. Some of them might be lucky enough to get a job with a formal industry training agreement and Modern Apprenticeships will create more opportunities over time. But, even with the growth in prestige pathways like Modern Apprenticeships, too many may be left behind.

However, significant numbers of low-qualified young school leavers will continue to be consigned to the margins of the labour market and may need income support and other forms of social assistance for extended periods. The marginalisation of these individuals and ultimately, their social exclusion will be the outcome unless concerted preventive action is taken. Many of these currently unqualified and unskilled young people would have the capacity to undertake higher skilled and hence more productive work if they had the appropriate learning opportunities. While many of those who leave school at the earliest opportunity later attempt to undertake further education, their lack of school qualifications may become a significant barrier to accessing tertiary education.

While senior school is appropriate for many students, who generally should be encouraged to stay on at school and try to improve their qualifications, there is a significant group who require an alternative learning environment in order to succeed. Moreover, there is a marked ethnic dimension to this with Maori students particularly over-represented. In recent years, the need for alternative education approaches has been recognised by schools and in education policy and a number of initiatives have been developed.

Recent government initiatives

Back in May 2000 I talked about the policies that the Government was moving to refine and implement.

I talked about the Modern Apprenticeship initiative. Today there are over 2000 young New Zealanders employed as Modern Apprentices and we will hit our target of 3000 by July this year.

Apprenticeships are back as a prestige learning pathway, with young people earning as they learn through mentored, work-based vocational education and training.

In May 2000 I talked about our plans for the STAR programme, and for a new programme - Gateway.

Gateway is now being piloted in 24 decile 1-5 schools in 2001. It aims to integrate learning in senior school with formal workplace learning and may lead on to Modern Apprenticeships for some participants. Gateway is intended to provide a wider spectrum of learning opportunities for a broad range of school students.

A number of features distinguish Gateway from other school-work initiatives. Gateway includes:

- A workplace learning component that is incorporated into the student’s overall study programme

- The work placement is relevant to the student’s study programme or vocational goals and the workplace learning is integrated accordingly

- The school, employer and student formalise the arrangement prior to the student entering the workplace

- The workplace learning is assessed against unit standards on the national Qualifications Framework (or achievement standards following the introduction of the NCEA)

- An individual training plan is developed for each student detailing the learning and unit standards to be achieved in the workplace

- The assessment of workplace learning usually occurs in the workplace

- Student achievement from their participation in Gateway is measured

Currently, Gateway caters for 1,000 students. An interim process evaluation of the pilots is shortly to be released. I have seen a draft of that evaluation and it indicates a high level of success, and a very positive endorsement from students, from schools, and from employers. It is, in essence, a very effective partnership initiative.

And of course Gateway features in this publication we are launching here today - it features in a profile of Auvea Logan and the work that he is doing as the Community Liaison and Careers Advisor at Sir Edmund Hillary College. And that Case Study and profile provide further testament to the effectiveness of the Gateway initiative.

Further work on the transition from school to work

My colleague Trevor Mallard and I have moved to set up an inter-departmental officials group to undertake further work on school to work transitions. We expect a report from that group towards the middle of the year.

We’ve asked those officials to think “outside of the square’. We have suggested that there will be a need to explore a range of “mix and match’ options. One size will not every circumstance.

That said I firmly believe that we need far more coordination and consistency of approach than we have seen to date - that is why I am so keen on formal relationships between schools and businesses like Gateway. That is why I believe that schools should be consulting with Industry Training Organisations and with tertiary education and training providers to ensure that what is taught in schools (for example through STAR funded unit standards) articulates with other learning and employment opportunities.

This publication is a very honest one - it reports research, which concludes that links between schools and businesses in Manukau are weak, but that there is potential for growth in building quality partnerships.

I am not going to take issue with that research, but I will say that if the links between schools and businesses in Manukau are weak, the rest of the country is in real trouble. I say that because in my assessment COMET and your partners in Government agencies like Skill New Zealand and the Ministry of Social Development, and your partner businesses and schools have made remarkable progress.

So take the opportunity to celebrate your successes as you reflect on the challenges ahead.

Congratulations. The Government stands ready to work with you as together, we pick up the pace.


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