Mixed employer sentiment towards government work initiatives

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Kiwi employers support the government initiatives underway to get more young people and the unemployed into work, a new survey by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Education (MBIE) shows.

The survey found that improving education, training and skills for young people and the unemployed removed barriers and enhanced their chances of getting a job, Tertiary, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce said. “Employers are clear that the key attributes they look for when hiring young people and those looking for work are whether they have the right skills, experience, attitude and work ethic.”

It also found that government initiatives such as Job Streams and the Youth Guarantee scheme (which provides fees-free vocational training to 16 and 17-year-olds) are supported by employers, he said. “Employers are also in favour of the 90-day-trial period the government has introduced as it reduces the risk of taking on people while giving them the chance to demonstrate they have the skills an employer wants.”

The minister also claimed that many employers were in favour of a simple youth minimum wage, and that the government has a comprehensive programme to ensure New Zealand’s young people have the necessary skills and training that employers are seeking.

However, the report itself stated there was a “low level of interest reported by employers in the new entrants’ minimum wage”. It said the lack of interest was due to the complexity of the minimum wage criteria, the relatively small saving the reduced wage gave, and some employers' belief that it was not fair to pay one staff member less money for the same job based on age and that the calibre of applicants would be lower if the pay rate was lower. 

Meanwhile, Joyce’s assertion of the existence of a programme to match up training for young people with the skills needed by Kiwi employers has been questioned – at least by the New Zealand Herald which has, this week, been publishing a series of articles on New Zealand’s skills crisis.

The article which kicked off the series said the Herald's investigation had "found a serious mismatch between the skills required for the 15,000 jobs advertised on the Seek NZ website and the skills of the almost 300,000 unemployed". It said that IT consultants and engineering managers were the two most in-demand occupations, according to SEEK's latest data, yet few unemployed had any experience in those areas.

Further, the Herald reported that the skills and vocations Kiwis are training in, or for, are not necessarily the skills and vocations that the country needs. For example, while there is a desperate shortage of engineers in New Zealand, Engineers NZ said that engineers made up just 5% of all tertiary graduates in New Zealand in 2007 – compared with 7% in Australia and the OECD average of 12%.

The report is available from the MBIE.


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