Building skills for work- A blog of two parts

Part-time work was a norm for most of us baby boomers. We delivered papers and worked in supermarkets and corner stores. There was lots of work around, and providing you were prepared to turn up on time and do what was asked of you, you could get as much part time work as you wanted.

Years past and we waitressed, mowed lawns, worked in local pubs, or got part time jobs in nearby stores. For me it was stacking hay and working in shearing sheds.  We learned to get on with people, show a bit of independence and good judgement and whether it was washing dishes, cleaning toilets or making cocktails, we developed a platform of work skills to grow a career on.

Today, it’s not so easy for youth to get part time work. The down turn of the economy means there is less part time work available and the need for two incomes for a family to keep their head above water has meant young mums are flocking back into the workforce.

To further compound a difficult situation, in order to get ahead, young people are expected to put in more hours at school or training for sport or music or whatever extra-curricular activities they have chosen. And then there are growing family and church commitments. Families juggling three or four jobs lean heavily on their teens to support with child minding, cooking and house-keeping.

This has all lead to the ‘death of the Saturday and after school jobs’. In the UK 16- and 17 year-olds combining full-time study with part-time work has halved, from 40% in the late 1990s, to around 20% today. We don’t have this data here in NZ, but it is probable it would reflect the UK situation.

Work experience is cited as the missing link for young people securing SME employment in NZ. It seems a big ask, in tight fiscal times, to ask businesses to invest their time and money in up-skilling young people, as in the short term it eats away at the bottom line. So – no experience, no job – no job, no experience. With SMEs making up 97 per cent of New Zealand businesses, this becomes a real problem.

My next blog will explore some innovative ideas from both around the globe and here in NZ – programmes which understand the importance of being future focused and which are successfully bringing together the needs and interests of both youth and business.

I would be interested to hear what ideas you have.



YEP1 gradFor many young people in NZ, this will be their last year at school.  Being prepared for this shift from school will have a strong influence on how positive they feel as the year ends.

Families have a key role in helping their teens successfully launch into the next chapter of their life-adulthood. Patience and perseverance will help, but dig in, as it could be an uphill battle all the way.

Decisions about future study, training or work are too important to leave teens to sort it on their own, to leave to chance or to last minute negotiations. In a time of high youth unemployment, young people who leave school under-prepared are more likely to miss out on the limited opportunities available.

In an article in the NZ Herald, Fran O’Sullivan highlights the need for the Government to get serious about youth unemployment.

Research has shown that young people have a lifetime of expectations and habits created by the start of their career-so those who leave school to ‘do nothing’ wear the scars of this ‘failure to launch’ for many years. If you want to know more about the significant impact of youth unemployment, you can read some interesting research on the long-term effects here.

Groundwork for family with school leavers

  • Sit down with your teen; discuss how best you can help them to grow into their new adult role
  • Support your teen to achieve at school or in training – Qualifications count!
  • Encourage your teen to seek out work experience – even if it’s voluntary
  • Create opportunities for them to build their self confidence and ‘work- valued’ skills such as self-management and communication skills
  • Take him/her to a career advisor or check out sites like Careers NZ
  • Help your teen build a CV and gather references
  • Check out future destination options – Use opportunities such as university open days and Workchoice Day
  • Connect with your social and work networks and let people know your teen’s study or work goal(s) – they may be able to help
  • Ensure your teen at least has their restricted driver’s licence by the time they finish high school, as some employers won’t hire a person without one.

What other ideas do people have for parents of school leavers?


Judge Beecroft reports a drop in youth offending which he attributes, in part, to schools working hard to keeping all young people in school.  This is a timely reminder as school starts back over the next few weeks.

We  know that youth who truant are inevitably drawn to other bored young truants and together they position themselves perfectly for trouble. Our prisons are full of adults who dropped out of school – and now struggle with low literacy and numeracy, and a future of unemployment, underemployment or crime.

Truancy must be viewed as a red flag for parents, schools and communities.

It is not a phase youth go through – it is a clear indicator that help is needed.  Left unchecked truancy will have  long term impacts on a young person’s life.  Not only do they fall behind in their schoolwork, but also their pro-social friends move on without them.

Youth who truant frequently don’t have the skills to seek help for themselves, so others need to take action to ensure truancy doesn’t become a habit.

Everybody has a role in reducing truancy:

  • Parents are responsible for getting their children to school, and keeping track of them. Parenting is a tough job and in a country that applauds ‘do it yourself’, it can be hard to ask for help. We need to make it easy for parents to get help and  reinforce there is no shame in asking for it.
  • Schools need robust systems to detect truancy. Schools who act promptly when students begin to truant achieve the best results.
  • Communities can help. Family, friends and neighbours can team up to support teens struggling with school. Malls and shops can choose not to serve students during school hours, and those working with youth can take a ‘no excuses stand’ to their going to school.

When we all choose not to justify truancy as being an inevitable outcome of ‘school not being for everyone’, we make a positive investment in the future of our youth and the health of our communities.

What role could you play in reducing truancy in Auckland?