Untapped talent: employ more young people

9 Jul 2018
SOURCE:
Business Plus magazine

New Zealand’s youth unemployment rates are stubbornly high and worrying.

In March this year, nearly 13 per cent of all 15 to 24 year olds were NEET – an official term that means 'not in employment, education or training'. But nationwide, the unemployment rate is less than half that, at 4.4 per cent.

The differences between these unemployment rates are a real puzzle.

Many of the businesses I speak to are in a war for talent, and are suffering business-critical staff shortages. They are also finding youth employment is not only an investment in the future of the workforce, but also a demographic that brings fresh ideas and perspectives.

Young employees can help develop services and products for the youth market and boost your business’ reputation, and they often bring local knowledge and technological know-how.

At the Sustainable Business Council we’ve run a ‘Social Impact’ programme,working with members to help them employ and retain vulnerable young people.

You might wonder why a Sustainable Business Council concerns itself with youth employment.

Sustainability is often misunderstood as being focused solely on the environment, but the concept is actually much broader and encompasses people, the community and social issues.

SBC members tell they want to work together to support New Zealand’s young people in work, and have a positive impact on social issues.

We’ve learnt that even small changes to the recruitment process can have a significant social impact. But it’s hard for businesses to quantify this.

We still have work to do to bring sustainability expertise and the HR function closer together, to co-create success and measure it.

Tips for hiring

Early engagement and relationship building can really pay off, as you build a positive reputation with young people, and expose them to a job they might not have considered before.

Approach your local school, polytech, marae, church, food market or university, and offer to meet with young people in places where they gather. Talk to them about your business and the kinds of roles you can offer them. Invite them to an onsite workplace visit and consider offering paid or unpaid work experience. Or contact your local Ministry for Social Development (WINZ) office.

Case studies

Z Energy stations nationwide employ New Zealanders from many different backgrounds and generations, reflecting the communities in which they operate. And in the Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa, retailer Hamish Waddington believes one of the keys to successful recruitment and retention of young staff is talking.

He suggests business owners and operators talk to them about their expectations, family and background, and help them plan for the future, if that’s what they want. Hamish is currently helping one staffer plan to save for his first car. He says this sort of interaction is always time well spent.

Countdown also employs a lot of young people. One third of its 18,500 staff are 25, or younger. They say a good way to attract people is to go along to local school and university career fair days to raise awareness of the business, and ensure it is seen as an exciting place to work offering plenty of opportunities and a passion for hiring young talent.

Countdown has a fully-subscribed graduate programme and a range of apprenticeships and development opportunities to support and training young people to rapidly move across or up the business. And Countdown is working with an organisation called YESS (Youth Empowerment and Support Services) to provide support and care to young people from complex background, who are starting out in their first jobs.

Hiring young people can be challenging. But what we’ve learnt is, if you give them time and trust, and show them what’s possible, they will often stick around and your business will reap the rewards.

Abbie Reynolds, SBC Executive Director