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Want Responsible Youth? Give Youth Responsibility!

Want Responsible Youth? Give Youth Responsibility!

Rafi Stone

It is often we encounter criticisms of youths' behaviour in New Zealand. One need not scavenge to find images of debauched students on Courtenay Place or arrested for disorderly drunken behaviour. We are frequently exposed to the conservative hard-line response demanding students be accountable for their less productive behaviour or else.

Only a fortnight ago on 30 August, Parliament voted to keep the drinking age at 18. The justification for this outcome was to launch a stark message to New Zealand youth - to behave with more responsibility.

Parliament ought to be commended for not bowing to the polls and instead focusing on encouraging youth to behave with more responsibility. However, what is still a very misunderstood philosophy is that responsible behaviour emerges from a responsible everyday lifestyle.

Students are not being employed for jobs which inspire responsibility, life experiences, self-confidence and last but certainly not least a supportive income.

It is commonplace to see graduates working as checkout operators in our Countdowns, Pak’n’Saves, Shells. The student job market is overwhelmed by job listings that read: “EXPERIENCED STUDENT REQUIRED FOR $13.50 P/HR”.

The majority of both big and small businesses in New Zealand appear to be too timid to take the risk and employ a student due to the student’s lack of experience. As a result tertiary students work as dishwashers, and graduates are promoted to dishdrying. This is a morbid reality as these individuals are the future of New Zealand society and future contributors to the New Zealand economy. Granted, for many students, like always, the mere prospect of simply earning a wage is enough of an enticement to apply for any job no matter how messy or mundane. But, for some reason, employers fall into the habbit of placing an emphasis on the income or hours of their job vacancy, rather than the value of the experiences, networking and confidence that can be gained from it.

New Zealand media thrive on the “thousands of graduates are crossing the ditch” story. The trending response to the exodus is that the Australian population and job market is significantly larger and thus New Zealand will never be able to compete. It might be worthwhile for some New Zealand businesses to take a business paid trip to Australia to be inspired by many Australian businesses that take the plunge and offer University students highly regarded well-paid internships. I am reminded of a job interview I had in Melbourne in 2010 in which my employer stated he was employing me only because he expected there would be value added to his business by employing a “younger person with vigor, enthusiasm and a determination to prove his worth.”

If New Zealand employers are prepared to make an investment in order to prevent skilled, recent graduates fleeing to Australia, then the investment begins now and it begins like any investment, with a risk. This risk is employing less experienced students to fill jobs which provide responsibility, prestige and ambition. The reward for the employer, the student and New Zealand society at large is simply immeasurable.

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