Wanted: 32,000 people to fill jobs to help fuel Auckland's rapid growth. Available: 23,000 16-24 year old Aucklanders not in education, employment or training.

And the money's good - $40,000-$60,000 in many starting salaries and genuine prospects for advancement.

It seems an easy equation to solve. But a new competition, #BuildAKL, has been launched to help solve the difficulties of getting the right people into not only the right jobs but jobs essential for growth - the burgeoning construction and infrastructure industry.

It's a sign of the times - youth unemployment is a massive problem globally and locally. Auckland is growing fast but needs 32,000 more skilled people to work in the industry by 2018. Auckland is expected to spend over $18 billion in the next decade on key capital projects and needs 400,000 more dwellings over the next 25 years.

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Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development agency (ATEED) is facilitating #BuildAKL, on behalf of Auckland Council, seeking to help plug the gap by putting employers in touch with young people. They can not only take part in the expansion and improvement of Auckland but can also be trailblazers - helping to leave behind old perceptions the 'best' jobs are hardy annuals like doctors, lawyers, accountants, media and the like.

#BuildAKL is a social media campaign launching today at JobFest, New Zealand's largest youth employment event, at The Cloud on Queens Wharf. Young jobseekers attending can register for the #BuildAKL competition - with 20 top candidates selected in late November to take part in training for qualifications. The top 10 will then have a four-week rotation of summer work experience with a view to securing a job.

Using social media to spread the word, the campaign hopes to encourage more than 4000 young Aucklanders into the thriving construction and infrastructure industry overall.

It's a different way of tackling a large and sometimes daunting issue - and help is needed now. The Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) said earlier this year Auckland and New Zealand desperately need new houses but only a little over half the 28,000 houses required in 2016-17 could be built because of the skills shortage.

With Auckland's boom and Christchurch's re-build, unprecedented demand for construction workers has shattered original industry estimates 1,600 new carpenters would be needed by 2018. That has since been adjusted to over 3,000.

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

The rewards can be significant. Salaries can go high if young people move up the ladder. One recent example from the BCITO was a 26-year-old who had come through an apprenticeship as a builder, had become a site manager and then project manager for a $20m project after undertaking construction management training. The salary band for such a manager is about $90,000-$150,000.

But how do you adjust perceptions and move unqualified young people into jobs in an industry many think is closed to them or involves physical exertion, is male-oriented and not as career-advancing as other trades and professions?

ATEED's general manager, business innovation & skills, Patrick McVeigh says ATEED research suggests apprenticeships in the construction and infrastructure industry are seen by their target young people as "a good way to get paid while they learn".
"However the barrier is they are not confident to apply for jobs in that industry because of a lack of experience.

"That's something Auckland shares with other parts of the world, particularly Europe, where youth unemployment has become a real issue. We find here the job market has changed so vastly from 20 years ago; there is lasting impact from the global financial crisis."

However, young people were discovering that jobs within the industry weren't as closed as they used to be: "With all the new technology on offer, you don't have to be 1.9m tall and 100kgs to operate heavy machinery, for example. There are opportunities for everyone - and it's a chance to be involved in Auckland's future."

In 2014, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) found 73 million youth unemployed globally, with career prospects increasingly tentative and finding work a struggle.
"There's a paradox," says McVeigh. "Employers struggle to find the skills they need.
Research in 2014 found that across Europe 27 per cent of employers had left vacancies unfilled as they were unable to find skilled applicants.

"There was significant disparity between the views of education providers, employers and young people. While 74 per cent of educators were confident graduates were prepared for work, only 38 per cent of youth and 35 per cent of employers thought that to be the case."

McVeigh says no similar research has been done here but he suspects the findings would be similar: "We talk a lot about how young people aren't job-ready here and also how many employers, in a country which is heavy in small to medium businesses, aren't youth-ready; many don't have the systems in place to upskill youth and are frustrated they can't find people with the skills they need."

By 2018, Auckland's workforce is projected to grow by more than 53,000 jobs, 38 per cent of all new jobs nationally will be based in Auckland.

"Fifty-seven businesses are now on board as Youth Employer Pledge partners, meaning they're committed to helping tackle youth unemployment by looking at ways they can bring more young people into their organisations and give them the training they need," he says.

"That will help us to meet the challenge to ensure Auckland's youth, as our future workforce, is ready to work and is appropriately skilled."