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Successful Youth Transitions

21 May 2004 Speech Notes

Successful Youth Transitions

Associate Education (Tertiary Education) Minister Steve Maharey speech to
the 2004 Secondary Principal’s conference. Grand Tiara Hotel, Rotorua.


Thank you for inviting me to talk to you today. My colleague, Trevor Mallard would have liked to be here today, but as you will probably be aware, couldn't make it as he is out of the country at the moment.

I've been told that more than 90% of New Zealand’s secondary school principals now belong to the Secondary Principals’ Association. The Association has played a key role in supporting principals and schools through a period of significant change in the education sector over the last sixteen years. The Association continues to provide that support, through professional development opportunities and advocacy, and through its outstanding contribution to educational policy development.

The conference’s theme today is ‘Forward Thinking’. That’s precisely the idea behind the policy development this government has been undertaking to ensure successful transitions for young people moving from secondary schooling into tertiary education or employment. Our young people are New Zealand’s future, and we’re working to ensure that they have the information and support to get into work and make rewarding career choices. We’re also working to ensure that we’ve got young people training in areas that will ease New Zealand’s current skill shortages, and help our economy grow.


While most young people make successful transitions to further education and training or employment, at any time an estimated 10–15% of young people aged 15 – 19 are not in education, training or employment. This represents somewhere between 27,000 and 40,000 young people.

Within this group there are a range of young people with different issues, aspirations and intentions. Some will be taking ‘time out’ to pursue leisure activities and do not appear to be at risk. The key factor that indicates that a young person is at risk of not making a successful transition seems to be holding low or no qualifications. In addition, the length of time spent outside of work, education or training appears to be a strong indicator of risk. Young people not participating in education or employment are likely to become an increasing issue over the next decade, as the ‘baby blip’ cohort reaches 15 – 19 years of age. Importantly, an increasing proportion of this cohort is Maori and Pacific people, who currently have higher rates of non-participation in education and employment than other ethnic groups in the population.

New Zealand’s unemployment rate has fallen from about 6.5 percent when the Labour-led government took office to about 4.3 percent now, the lowest level since 1987. Relatively more young people are entering tertiary education and training and relatively fewer are unemployed. The number of young people receiving benefits has decreased, with 35 percent fewer 15-19 year olds receiving benefits than in 1999. Nevertheless unemployment among young people remains comparatively high, just as in other countries like ours.

This is an important social issue but it isn’t only a social issue. There are major and long-term social costs associated our young people becoming inactive rather than in employment, education, or training.

In June 2002 the British Department for Education and Skills published research examining the costs of being ‘not in education, employment or training’ at age 16-18, and found that that the average per capita costs over a lifetime are £45,000 in resource costs, and £52,000 in public finance costs. If 10,000 people were removed from this group, the long-term savings would be £450 million in resource costs and £520 million in public finance costs.

If we accept those findings and assume the same long-term returns in the New Zealand context, what would we find? On a very rough approximation, removing 10,000 ‘at risk’ New Zealand young people from the inactive group and getting them into employment, education, or training could easily result in lifetime present value savings of $1 billion.

But this isn’t just about numbers, it’s a matter of principle.

We’ve never liked the idea of young people leaving school to go on the dole. There are plenty of jobs out there now, and we need to make sure that our young people are able to take advantage of that fact. In October 2002 the government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, containing the shared goal:

“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”.

Setting out to achieve this goal, we assessed New Zealand’s transitions system against international models of best practice. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has identified five key features of systems that are effective in supporting successful youth transitions:

Well organised connections between education and training and the labour market Workplace experience combined with education Systems that target potential school leavers and unemployed young people, during this period of transition Good information and guidance about services at school and post school Effective institutions and processes, with all of these underpinned by a healthy and growing economy.

New Zealand generally compares well. We have a number of the features of a good transitions system and our transitions system has seen significant improvement in recent years. There are, however, areas where measures are required to ensure that New Zealand’s transition system better contains these key elements. In particular, our transitions system for at-risk school leavers is limited.

As you know, the government has been engaged in a number of initiatives that aim to improve pathways for the diversity of students at school. In particular, the new qualification structure makes it possible for schools to provide courses that better bridge the transition from secondary schooling to tertiary education, training, or employment.

STAR support and funding and the Gateway initiative provide resources and opportunities for schools and students to assess the learning that will set them on the path to qualifications. NCEA has greatly opened up the education and career pathways available to students while they are still enrolled at school.

One feature of the qualification system is that students may begin a qualification while at school and can complete it in a different setting beyond school. This requires good information flows between schools and other education providers. In the relatively new planning and reporting framework, schools set their own objectives and priorities to meet the needs of their students. By collecting and analysing student achievement data, programme adjustments can be made to focus on those things that make the most difference for students. The consultation performed with their community provides an opportunity for alignment between schools and other providers. I have heard that you have some concerns about the planning and reporting legislation, and that the Ministry of Education has recently clarified its role. The continued dialogue between schools, the profession and the Ministry, will contribute to improved support for more effective teaching and learning in schools.

Innovative initiatives to assist young people to make successful transitions have also been developed and implemented through partnerships between schools, local government and central government agencies throughout the country.

One example is Porirua YES!: a youth employment regional pilot funded through the Ministry of Economic Development. Key stakeholders include Partners Porirua; local secondary schools; local industry and employers; local training providers; the Porirua City Council and the Mayoral Taskforce Committee; the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency; Work and Income; and Porirua’s young people, together with their parents and community.

Porirua YES! is working with these stakeholders to arrange placements into employment, training or further education for young people who may be experiencing difficulty in making transitions. The pilot has been getting excellent results, including for participating young people with no qualifications.

In other cases, partnerships have been experimenting with ways to improve career information and guidance for young people. For example, new Career Coaches in secondary schools in Dannevirke, Pahiatua, Levin, Otaki and Foxton are providing students with advice on tertiary education options and job opportunities.

This government is committed to supporting you to develop ways to improve teaching and learning so that we continue to improve student outcomes.

The government has previously announced strategies to manage early exemptions and non-enrolled and truant students, which will support students who are at risk of not making successful transitions.

In September of last year my colleague, the Honourable Trevor Mallard, announced the Secondary Futures project, which will take a unique and collaborative look at the future of secondary schooling in New Zealand. The overall aim of the project is to lift the success of our secondary students in the face of the many challenges and changes that impact on your sector.

While many interventions are already in place, we have been identifying what else needs to be done to address the remaining gaps in New Zealand’s transitions system. We have identified three priorities:

To enhance careers information, advice and guidance for school students To build on and better coordinate the post-school local support services for those young people most at risk To enhance the vocational education and training available at school and post-school.


In last year’s Budget, the government made a considerable investment in further pathways from school into work, education or training, including:

funding the expansion of the Gateway programme to all decile 1 to 5 secondary schools by 2007, and funding the expansion of Modern Apprenticeships to 7,500 participants by June 2006.


Last week I announced 2004 Budget funding of $56.9 million over four years for a number of initiatives in the three priority areas. These initiatives are aimed at both school students and school leavers and focus both on those most at risk of not making a successful transition, and the needs of a broader group of young people who might be unsure about their futures. The package comprises:

The establishment of a new transitions service for young people leaving school. The service will be contracted to existing community-based organisations and will provide customised support and career planning, working with local employers, training and education providers. The service will be piloted in 14 communities by 2007 (starting with 5 communities next year).

Expansion of the Gateway programme to all decile 6 schools by 2008. Gateway is currently available 126 schools (4,000 students) and when fully expanded will by available to 269 schools (13,000 students).

Providing an additional 500 Modern Apprenticeships taking the number of places available to 8,000 by June 2006.

A three-year pilot programme to evaluate whether extending the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA) to teenage parents would encourage them in remain in, or return to education. The pilot programme will provide access to the TIA for 200 teenage parents.

The two initiatives that I think you will be particularly interested in are, however, those that are the responsibility of Trevor Mallard: Designing Careers, and Enhancements to the STAR programme


The Designing Careers initiative involves a two year pilot to improve career planning in schools. Evidence has shown that schools need more support to meet the career information, advice and guidance requirement in National Administration Guidelines. This pilot will inform government decisions regarding the support needed for quality career planning in schools.

The Designing Careers initiative will allow Individual Learning and Career Plans to be piloted in 75 selected schools to help students create a coherent and flexible programme of learning that leads to higher achievement and successful transitions from school into work, education or training. The plans will also help keep track of students' learning and career development. Every student in Year 10 on the pilot will prepare an individual learning and career plan with assistance from parents and caregivers, the careers advisor and their form teacher. The pilots will extend to those students in Years 11, 12 and 13 who have been identified as at risk of not making a successful transition from school.

The planning process involved will help students set goals, review and assess their achievements through the senior secondary school and beyond. The pilot will run over two years including development and evaluation time. Career Services will provide professional support and resources to these schools to support the implementation of the plans.

In addition, this initiative includes funding for research to develop a stronger evidence base on what constitutes effective career information, advice and guidance in New Zealand schools.

The Ministry of Education will be advertising for expressions of interest from schools in late May or early June.


Five permanent school support positions at colleges of education throughout New Zealand and a position in the Ministry of Education will be created to co-ordinate the implementation and evaluation of senior secondary transition education programmes. In addition to providing programme support to schools for STAR and Gateway, the advisors will link with Tertiary Education Commission regional advisors and Industry Training Organisations to build on the connections between different programmes.

Best practice materials will be developed in different formats, such as printed material or videos, giving schools accessible resources that can be used to improve the effectiveness of their STAR programmes.

This package further provides for ongoing monitoring of STAR and senior secondary transition programmes so that opportunities for improving outcomes for students can be identified.

Government has already committed $23.5 million dollars per year to STAR, an integral part of supporting senior secondary school students. Enhancing the STAR programme supports the Government’s shared goal with the Mayors’ Taskforce for Jobs.


The work doesn’t end here. We have also identified a second tier of priorities for further strengthening the transition system in future years as the initiatives undertaken so far take effect. These second tier priorities include:

ensuring adequate access to post-school foundation skills programmes extending the range of work/study options enhancing the post-training support available for at-risk young people reviewing the financial incentives available to support young people to participate in education and training improving the support services available for young people with disabilities; and identifying future job opportunities in industry.


Just before I conclude, many of you will know that last week Trevor Mallard announced a significant new package to support international education. This signals the Government's commitment to developing strength in our international education activities through promoting quality and diversifying activities.

Strong education partnerships with other countries is a key part of this. To this end Trevor is currently visiting a number of countries in Asia. The discussion he had in Beijing last week highlighted the importance both Government's place on our countries working together but we want to jointly oversee this. Both the Chinese and ourselves will be working to develop frameworks to guide initiatives like school to school joint ventures. Until this is done I would urge you to be appropriately cautious when considering any joint venture arrangements.


And another comment from my colleague. Trevor Mallard has asked me to note that he will shortly gazette the term dates for 2006 through to 2009. There has been continuing public representation that schools should begin later than the first Monday in February, that the years for all schools primary and secondary should be aligned as much as possible, and that all schools finish as close to Christmas as possible.

The Minister has also received a representation from the New Zealand Secondary Schools Sports Council indicating strong support from participating Secondary schools for a Winter Tournament Week to be set aside within Term 3.

In order to accommodate these matters, I am announcing today that in future the school year will begin in the main in February - after Waitangi day, with the exception of 2009. Term 3 for Secondary and Composite schools includes a week's break in the middle to accommodate the national winter sports tournament. Schools may decide to run other cultural or sporting activities schools in that week's holiday as well. This will ensure that preparation for NCEA will not be obstructed by interruptions to classes. This means that the school year for secondary schools will finish at about the same time as primary schools. NZQA is working to ensure the external NCEA examinations can be started a week later to accommodate the change.

As I said earlier, the term dates will be gazetted shortly. Remember, the changes take place from 2006 onwards, not next year.


Finally then, I want to congratulate you on the important contribution you make to improving successful outcomes for young people. The preparation and guidance that young people receive during their secondary education is critical to their ability to make successful transitions to further education and to the world of work. We all need to continue to work in partnership, to ensure that we are creating an environment that supports our young people to step up to their future.


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