Guiding teens to wise decisions

By Donna McIntyre

Survey shows parents' opinion and guidance valued by young people planning for future

Celebrities and sports stars can provide positive role models for teens working towards a successful future. Photo / NZ Herald
Celebrities and sports stars can provide positive role models for teens working towards a successful future. Photo / NZ Herald

High school years are when teens face important decisions that will shape their future. But whom do they go to when they need advice?

This year's Youthtown nationwide survey of 1,194 teenagers has found the people they turn to for guidance - and this may surprise many people - are their parents.

And just four young people out of every 10 of those questioned believe they've had useful career counselling.

The teenagers candidly answered questions about the things that matter most to them in the second annual Youthtown Voice of New Zealand Survey. They were asked about relationships with family and friends, whom they identify with and why, and what their plans are. The survey was open to all young Kiwis aged 13-18.

Paula Kearns, Youthtown CEO, says the fact that parents have such a positive influence in their lives is perhaps counter to popular misconception that the teenage years are when parents lose their influence.

"The survey results show us that parents are the biggest influencers and that young people do listen to them (72 per cent) therefore it is vital that parents are equipped for discussions about job choices with as much information as possible, including the school subjects that align with these.

Irene van Dyk. Photo / Getty Images
Irene van Dyk. Photo / Getty Images

"Parents should not assume that the schools are taking care of this area and should be actively involved in the process," she says. "It is important that we give our young people information, skills and confidence so that they can make good decisions about their future."

Of the young people surveyed, 68 per cent said they were "worried" or "moderately concerned" about getting a job or career they wanted. Asked what could stop them being successful, they noted themselves (23 per cent), indecision or procrastination (20 per cent) and job availability (16 per cent) as key obstacles.

Youthtown Voice of New Zealand head researcher Alex Woodley said most young people surveyed had identified their talents, however over one-third had not. Although half of respondents knew what job or career they wanted and had a plan to achieve their future career, only four out of 10 young people believed they had had useful career counselling.

"What we need to ask ourselves now, is how can we ensure every young New Zealander gets the guidance and expert steer they need to give them confidence to follow their chosen career path."

Graeme Benny, chief executive of Careers New Zealand, agrees it is important for young people to establish a positive network to support their career decisions and plans.

"And career guidance is just one part of that picture.

"As the Youthtown study identifies, parents and caregivers are really influential in this role and we'd encourage them to talk about career planning as part of normal, everyday conversation - really listening to what they want to do, helping them break down the steps to get there, and providing encouragement and motivation for a successful career journey."

He says engaging parents and caregivers in the learning and transitions of their children is a high priority for education providers and agencies. Also, his organisation is developing capability in organisations and communities and has introduced a self-assessment tool and support services for schools and tertiary providers for the development of career management competencies in Years 7-8 through to secondary and tertiary.

He says by connecting education, community and business organisations together in identified priority areas, they can work together on initiatives that smooth the pathways between education, training and work.

His organisation is also working on the personalisation of its online tools at careers.govt.nz to ensure they are relevant to young people's needs, including the launch of Career Checker, an introduction to career planning.

He says strengthening the pathways from school and tertiary to employment is a government and community priority, citing the new career sector initiative - the NCEA and the Whanau programme - to help whanau understand and make more informed learning decisions based on clear pathways supported by industries and employers.

Kearns says: "What we've learned from this research is that young New Zealanders want to succeed, and spend considerable time thinking about their future, and a career here in New Zealand."

Richie McCaw. Photo / NZ Herald
Richie McCaw. Photo / NZ Herald

Another interesting point to come out of the survey is that this country's teenagers' aspirations are now global rather than confined to New Zealand. They say adventure, travel, better work opportunities and higher salaries are what attracts them abroad. They noted that more opportunities and jobs would make New Zealand an even better place to live.

"We live in a global environment and young people have many successful role models that they can identify with from around the world. It is therefore only natural that they aspire globally and there is nothing wrong with that,"' says Kearns. "Why shouldn't our young people reach for the stars?

"It is always very interesting to hear what young people have to say and important that we listen.

"Young people tell us that they feel negatively represented in the media and they wanted us to see the real them. One of the main purposes of the Youthtown Voice of New Zealand Survey is to give young people a voice on issues that matter to them and not to make presumptions."

• For more information visit youthtown.org.nz.


Role models

Young people admire celebrities with intelligence, talent, determination, confidence and self-belief. They don't look up to celebrities or personalities because of their "fame". Who do our teens identify with?

Demi Lovato: "She has overcome many challenges (eating disorder, self-harm, bipolar), and she uses her experience to speak out and help others."

Taylor Swift: "She can relate to teenagers. She is so nice and tries to do so much for her fans. She also does so much to give back to the community and donates to charities. Her songs make me happy."

Richie McCaw: "He shows respect to anyone and is a really kind person."

Irene van Dyk: "That she's still playing the sport she loves after so many years and she is just a lovely person."

- NZ Herald

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