Wednesday April 16, 2003
Stephen Tindall: Businesses have key role in solution
The current unemployment rate for 15-25-year-olds is 10 per cent, twice the national average. Meanwhile, skills shortages are limiting the capacity of one in six businesses, which are missing out on the tremendous energy, skills and perspective that young people can offer.
Responding to this challenge, the Business Council for Sustainable Development (NZBCSD) has launched a Business Guide to Youth Employment. The guide is the product of a partnership between the council and the Mayors' Taskforce for Jobs, drawing together business, local government, central government and the community. The vision is to work towards the goal of current employment or training for all young New Zealanders by 2005.
The NZBCSD is a coalition of more than 40 leading New Zealand businesses with a shared commitment to providing leadership as a catalyst for change towards sustainable development and responsible entrepreneurship. The Mayors' Taskforce has 54 participating mayors united by a common desire to make positive changes within individual communities in regard to employment opportunities.
The council believes that business can and should play a key role in addressing youth employment. To do this, the issues and potential solutions must be well understood and communicated. The council commissioned original research, through surveys, focus groups and interviews along with literature research, to produce a comprehensive guide for businesses, to encourage their proactive participation in addressing youth employment in New Zealand.
More than just identifying the problems associated with youth unemployment, the guide is a concise NZ industry report on the "why" and "how" for stimulating youth employment. The business case for employing or training young people is compelling. It includes:
* Maintaining and developing the skills required for growth.
* Getting fresh perspectives and ideas.
* Ensuring a sustainable, balanced workforce.
* Connecting with the future's diverse markets and stakeholders.
* Enhancing reputation as an employer.
* Growing customer and stakeholder support.
The guide provides case studies from six NZBCSD companies - City Care, Fonterra, Holcim, Money Matters, The Warehouse and Urgent Couriers.
As part of the council's Youth Employment Project, Fonterra surveyed farmers on farm employment. The survey revealed that ignorance of farming in the wider community and insensitivity to the needs of young people by farmers are the twin enemies of rural youth employment. Fonterra is now developing a company-wide strategy to tackle community and farmer attitudes through education. The Reporoa School Project is a pilot scheme involving students living on a farm and undertaking some of their school curriculum study for unit standards on the farm.
"It doesn't make sense to have farmers desperate for help while young people are desperate for work," says Craig Norgate, CEO of Fonterra. "Our industry organisations are working to address this mismatch and improve the value proposition of farming for young people."
NZBCSD member City Care is in the business of construction, maintenance and management of New Zealand's infrastructure and amenity assets. Of City Care's 500 staff, 80 - many of whom are over 25 years old - are in modern apprenticeship training. City Care was conscious of the need to train younger trades people to ensure a replacement supply of skilled labour.
CEO Richard Lauder "hammered out" a new and flexible Work and Income-funded proposal to take on 20 young long-term unemployed people. They were offered 12 months' paid employment and training over eight occupational areas, to a new Level 2 NZQA certificate. Life skills included teamwork, communication and time management. Each trainee was buddied with a qualified mentor.
"The programme has been very successful for City Care," says Lauder, "staff morale and our public profile have improved and we have 20 enthusiastic new staff members".
The guide includes case studies from all six companies and Transfield, which recently joined the NZBCSD. We also detail the business case for youth employment and provide information about programmes and schemes to help business.
We suggest five key steps for businesses that want to join the youth employment journey: analyse the current status of "youth" in respect of your business; decide within the business what sort of youth employment and/or training initiative you would like to become involved with; register on our website; set a specific timeframe and targets for the initiative; then review and report.
I challenge all NZ businesses to think about their own opportunities for enabling the education and employment of young people - the wins could be huge.
* The guide can be downloaded from New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development
The Council's guide to youth employment
* Stephen Tindall is chairman of the Business Council for Sustainable Development and founder of The Warehouse.
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