Kirk Hope: Labour opening the pipeline

There are not enough young people with skills that are desperately needed by business - technical, practical, commercial ...


There are not enough young people with skills that are desperately needed by business – technical, practical, commercial and other applied skills, BusinessNZ head Kirk Hope says.

OPINION: It’s a helpful occurrence when political parties release policies before election year.

The Labour Party has made an early start, releasing their statement on careers advice in secondary school.

It’s a welcome policy.

Labour would require schools to give more attention to careers advice, and would require every student from year 9 to have an individual career development plan.

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Schools would be asked to develop partnerships with businesses and training providers so students can more easily get into work and further training.

This policy differs from what happens in schools now in that it would require more focus on career preparation, more engagement with business and training providers, and in requiring a career plan for every student.

The Government is certainly focused on the area, folding CareersNZ into the Tertiary Education Commission, providing funding for schools career advice, and supporting moves to connect schools with businesses and tertiary education providers through the Sector Workforce and Engagement Programme and Youth Guarantee.

But there could be more accountability required from schools in how they use the funding, and labour market information could be made more accessible still.

Labour’s policy could push the envelope further. It’s the kind of policy that business would like to see offered by all political parties.

Business is very concerned at the current mismatch between school-leavers’ skills and the skills that are required at work.

There are not enough young people with skills that are desperately needed by business – technical, practical, commercial and other applied skills.

Also lacking are the basic skills that are needed for a young person to be useful in the workplace, like good communication, a work ethic, and showing initiative and responsibility.

Business needs a pipeline of these skills – a huge, effective pipeline delivering large quantities of relevant skills out of schools, technical institutes and universities.

Engineers are needed, and qualified IT people, and tradespeople, and technical workers of all kinds.

For example Chorus – the company responsible for most of the roll-out of the high-speed broadband network – is currently hampered by a lack of technicians.

There are not enough people coming out of training institutions with the technical skills that would allow them to do the job or receive further training to do so. Chorus has to hire technicians from India and the Philippines to fill the gap.

Meanwhile, thousands of young New Zealanders are completing secondary and tertiary education with qualifications in subjects that will simply not get them a job.

This shows we need to do far better in providing careers guidance.

Labour’s policy could go further still – careers advice needs to start earlier than year 9.

Students need to get the message about applied skills before they even start secondary school.

Maths and science must be studied in years 9 and 10 to be able to progress in technical areas in later education. So students at intermediate schools need to get the message to study maths and science right from the start at high school.

Another way Labour’s policy could be improved on is by making schools accountable for the careers advice provided.

Currently schools are funded for careers guidance, but can choose how to use the funding and in some cases are using it for other purposes.

And the practice of schools forming partnerships with businesses and tertiary education providers is so important that schools should also be held accountable for this.

Business would like to see what other political parties have to say about careers guidance.

It would be great if we could see cross-party agreement to deliver or improve on Labour’s policy.

Improvement in this critical area would do a lot to get the skills pipeline flowing, helping business and our young people’s future.

Kirk Hope is the chief executive BusinessNZ,

 – Stuff

First published at: August 4, 2016 at 10:05PM.
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