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This group of students take time out for a photograph while taking part in a Licence to Work workshop. The programme, aimed at bridging the employment gap for young people in Gisborne, will nearly double its student intake this year.

Bridging the employment gap in Gisborne

7 March 2018

A PROGRAMME aimed at bridging the employment gap for young people in Gisborne will nearly double its student intake this year.

Licence to Work is an Activate Tairawhiti-run programme that gives young people the core skills they need to make it in the world of work, as well as addressing the ongoing challenges many employers face, such as the cultural and attitude divide between themselves and a growing youth labour force.

In its second year, the programme will cater for more than 140 students and involve 11 secondary and tertiary education providers across the region.

Last year, 83 enrolled in the programme. Of them, 26 went on to find meaningful employment while more went on to further secondary education or tertiary study.

Clash of expectations a common issue

Research by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) shows a clash of expectations, as well as cultural and generational differences, are common issues for employers and young employees.

Licence to Work co-ordinator Karen Fenn says a lot is understood about the challenges youth and employers face.

“We know that positive connections with employers early on are important for building motivation and confidence in young people. But the reality is unless they are supported, applying for work or stepping into a workplace can be challenging.

“Once in work, many young people struggle to remain there. Often it’s because our youth lack understanding of employers’ expectations. Also, they lack the confidence and communication skills to have grown-up conversations.”

These kinds of situations are time-consuming, frustrating and costly for the employer and employee.

However, Mrs Fenn says it is encouraging schools, employers and young people see the benefits of working together and are willing to use a tool like Licence to Work.

“The phenomenal growth in participation is proof we are all motivated to bridge the gap,” she says.

Licence to Work requires students to carry out 18 hours of facilitated employability and work readiness sessions, 10 to 20 hours of volunteer work, and 80 hours of work experience to receive a “licence to work”.

In return, participating employers mentor students and complete an assessment of student performance.

“The strength of the programme lies in the joint effort between business and schools. Employers often look for young people to demonstrate the right attitude and skills over and above technical capability. “

It was about getting youth ahead of the game — setting them up to succeed.

“But it’s also about supporting our employers’ youth readiness,” she says.

Globally, there is an evolving understanding of the contribution young people can make in growing and developing a business.

Young talent is tech savvy and, when properly engaged, can bring fresh ideas, perspectives and energy, Mrs Fenn says.

Because every young person requires an element of support, there is opportunity for businesses to develop their internal coaching and mentoring capability.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that developing a youth-ready work environment is beneficial for both the employer and the employee.” she says.

Educational outcomes

There are also educational outcomes — a fact that should not be underestimated.

“Working alongside other school programmes and facilitators, our providers tell us the programme is contributing to their ability to keep students in school longer, improving academic achievement – as well as preparing students for work.”

So, as a tool for engaging our youth, it is proving incredibly valuable, she says.

Activate Tairawhiti general manager economic development Steve Breen says the programme has been widely endorsed as a key initiative in ensuring a youth pathway from education to employment.

“As we talk more about economic growth and job creation, we must be sure that our young people are well equipped to participate.

“There are great jobs out there with more to come. Giving our youth the right tools to secure and retain employment will have a dramatic impact on their lives and the economic future and social fabric of the region,” he says.

The programme is supported by Comet Auckland — voluntary providers, youth-friendly employers and school champions.

Employers interested in the programme can email Karen Fenn.
Students should contact their school or training provider.

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