Youth employment is a major focus for the National Government.  We want to give our young people a smooth transition from school to work, and to ensure we manage our responsibility to develop a strong and skilled workforce for the future.

At a recent meeting of Asia Pacific Ministers on youth employment, several New Zealand programmes were highlighted.

We have spent over $237 million on packages to support young people into work, in particular:

• A Youth Guarantee scheme which provides opportunities for 16 and 17 year-olds who have left school and are unable to find a job, to complete a vocationally focused training programme at a polytechnic, exempt from tuition fees. Another option is through Trade Academies where a student stays enrolled at school and spends part of their week studying towards a trade qualification. The Youth Guarantee scheme gives young people, particularly those at risk of dropping out of school, practical skills and the opportunity for a career. (The Government is investing over $109 million in these and related programmes, to purchase close to 13,000 trade training placements).

• A 6-month subsidised job placement programme (Job-Ops) to help disadvantaged young people gain work experience and secure permanent employment. This initiative includes assistance for employers to invest in the training of their young employees. The aim is for a young person to gain valuable work experience so they are better placed to move into unsubsidised work at the end of it. (Around 2,000 young people have benefited from training through the programme so far).

In addition, the Government is currently implementing a programme of welfare reforms which include better targeting the needs of disengaged youth. The intention is that youth who are unemployed return to, or remain in full-time education, training or work-based learning as part of their obligations for receiving welfare. The reforms will adopt an investment approach to tailor supports to the differing circumstances of these youth and focus on those who need extra support to transition from school to work.

New Zealand needs high youth employment contributing the energy and creativity that our young workers bring to a job.  We are not immune to the problems facing young people looking for work throughout the world, but we are working hard to build a workforce for the future.