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Recognising potential contribution of young people

Steve Maharey Speech: Recognising the potential contribution of young people

Comments at the launch of the Business Guide to Youth Employment. PricewaterhouseCoopers Building, Auckland.


Firstly I would say thank you for inviting me to the launch of the Business Guide to Youth Employment.

I would like to acknowledge the work of the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development in preparing this publication, the Business Guide to Youth Employment, and to affirm the commitment of leading New Zealand businesses to improving the outlook for our young people.

The Business Guide to Youth Employment

The Guide is for employers who are interested in better utilising the skills and talents of young people in their businesses. It clearly identifies the business case for employing and training young people. This includes:

Developing your workforce Getting fresh ideas and perspectives Connecting with young people - who embody the future’s diverse markets and stakeholders (not to mention the future shareholders) Building your reputation as an employer Growing customer and stakeholder support.

This Government wants to ensure that our young people enter into adulthood with the skills and attributes necessary to participate in a growing and constantly diversifying knowledge economy. Failure to act on youth unemployment is, as Stephen Tindall notes in his introduction to the Guide, a “failure to recognise the tremendous wealth of energy, skills and perspectives that our young people can potentially offer".

The potential of the youth workforce

While youth unemployment is lower today than it has been over the past decade, the statistics remain a concern. Of the 103,000 people identified in the Household Labour Force Survey as unemployed, 40,000 are under 25. A recognition of this underlies Government’s commitment to helping young people make a successful transition from secondary schooling through the provision of clear pathways into further education, training or employment.

Through the Modern Apprenticeships scheme we are encouraging more young people to become involved in industry training. Over 3,000 young New Zealanders are signed-up under the scheme and about half of these are 18 or younger. These numbers set us firmly on the path to achieve our next target of doubling the number of Modern Apprentices to 6,000 by December 2003.

Another exciting advance is the pilot Gateway initiative, where year 11 to 13 secondary school students have the opportunity to undertake part of their course of study in a workplace. As the name suggests the scheme is a gateway to the workplace and the students do real and meaningful work which contributes to their formal qualifications.

As with Modern Apprentices, we plan to expand Gateways over the next two years. Across government we are looking at options for further supporting successful transitions from school into further education, training, work or other opportunities for young people, including those at risk of ‘falling through the cracks’.


However, it will take more than Government policy and initiatives to ensure all our young people get the opportunities they deserve. I am heartened that we have a growing commitment from local government and the business community to supporting initiatives for youth employment.

In October 2002, Government and the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs signed a revised Memorandum of Understanding outlining the process by which central government and the Taskforce will co-operate towards the achievement of a shared goal for youth participation. It said that:

by 2007, all 15-19 year olds will be engaged in appropriate education, training, work or other options which will lead to long term economic independence and well-being.

There is a widespread recognition that the whole of New Zealand needs to work together collaboratively to support our young people in achieving their full potential. The commitment of local government, business and the community sector has been inspirational.

The partnership with the Mayors Taskforce builds on the many initiatives for young people that have been established around the country by mayors and the Ministry of Social Development's regional Work and Income services. One example is the Canterbury Youth Employment Strategy, jointly managed by the Canterbury Development Corporation and Work and Income. The strategy includes specially trained Work and Income Case Managers working pro-actively with early school leavers to provide them with information and advice to support them gaining a job or returning to further education and training.

Another example is the provision of driver education and car maintenance classes to unemployed young people in Northland where lack of transport is a significant barrier to employment.

The success of these and other initiatives demonstrates what can be achieved with some fresh thinking and a collaborative approach to skills and employment issues between Government, business and the community.


Congratulations to the Business Council for Sustainable Development for developing the Business Guide to Youth Employment and promoting the approaches it puts forward. It shows the value of having input from experienced employers who are ‘walking the talk’ and providing opportunities for young people.

The Guide will be invaluable for employers who recognise the potential contribution of young people and want to work towards providing sustainable employment opportunities for young people in New Zealand.

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