One Mahurangi - Businesses must connect with schools

By: Murray Chapman

With any luck, our local business owners and operators have had an opportunity to spend some quality time with family and friends, and a bit of down time from work over the Christmas-New Year period. Now, as we get into February and the start of the education year, it is a good time for employers to think about engaging with school learners.

Evidence suggests this has huge benefits for employers and students alike.

Building a relationship with local secondary schools is a smart way to create awareness of your business and attract future talent. It is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to get your name out there. Consider being a guest speaker at your local school; taking on a student for work experience; mentoring a student; participating in a careers expo; or inviting students to visit your business.

Recent research by the Employers and Manufacturers Association shows that only 18 per cent of businesses have links to schools. But by engaging with schools, school leavers will be interested in working with you when they finish secondary school or graduate from tertiary study – saving you recruitment costs and solving future skill shortages. It also gives school leavers an opportunity to interact with employers. Even if this interaction is not a work offer, it is hugely beneficial. Overseas research shows young people who experience four (or more) interactions with employers are five times less likely to be unemployed.

In New Zealand, a recent survey by the Ministry of Education shows that 66 per cent of school leavers have never spoken to an employer – this suggests a large number may potentially be joining the unemployment queue. Increasingly, we hear about a disconnect between the world of work and the world of education. Employers complain that the education system does not prepare young people for work neither in terms of their skill sets nor their attitudes. The education sector says industry does not take enough responsibility in terms of offering training and development or “learn as you earn” opportunities. Statistics show 70 per cent of New Zealand students who complete secondary school do not go on to further study. Of those who do go on to further study, about 75 per cent indicated they would have changed what they were studying if they knew more when they started.

The Warkworth area is growing quickly with new businesses looking to move here to capitalise on its growth. Local businesses should engage with schools sooner rather than later.

Murray Chapman, Manager


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