By Helen Martin
Australia-based youth employment expert Dave Turner was in town mid-July to run some well-attended workshops focused on generating pathways to employment for local young people. Funded by the Rodney Local Board, the workshops were organized by Helensville District Health Trust’s community economic development project coordinator, the Outwest Youth team, the Northwest District Business Association and Youth Connections.
Dave’s central concern is to encourage agencies to tackle youth unemployment before it happens. At a breakfast gathering of business individuals and associations he talked about the role of employers helping young people in their quest for work. This was followed by a conversation with 20 Kaipara College students talking about their views around careers, motivation to work and the value of support in the transition from school to work. At a third meeting, which involved agencies concerned with youth unemployment, a key idea in the discussion was the importance of the whole community’s effort in addressing the issue.
Talking about what young people face in trying to forge a career direction in an unstable, insecure labour market Dave shared his knowledge of partnerships between education, employers and the community. Dave has worked a lot in Switzerland, which has the world’s best performance in youth employment, key to which is a robust apprenticeship system under which 70% of all high school students, choosing from 240 occupations, spend 3 to 4 days a week in the workplace and 1 to 2 days at school, leaving school only when they have completed their apprenticeship at the age of 19. Some then go on to further study, others remain in the workforce.
Dave, who has been working for some months here with the Mayors’ Task Force for Jobs (http://www.mayorstaskforceforjobs.co.nz/)describes his role in providing information in his workshops as “raising stories from afar”. His purpose is to bring attention to these stories, with the idea that the overseas practices he describes can be adapted here.
He’s encouraged by the response in Helensville. “I think a number of people will pick up aspects of it, for example the employers are very keen to see small businesses work together so young people can undertake work exploration projects,” he explains. “It’s a way of young people growing up and learning about the world of work while they’re at school. The real goal is to find a learning rich pathway rather than focus purely on ‘my first job’. The ideal pathway is one that nurtures, that challenges, that keeps people growing and learning while they’re earning.“