Simon Collins is the Herald’s education reporter.

Jobfest hits right note on youth careers

Musician who came back says NZ has much to offer unemployed young people.
Sammy Johnson plays at the Manukau jobfest tomorrow. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Sammy Johnson plays at the Manukau jobfest tomorrow. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Maori Aussie ("Mozzie") soul/reggae artist Sammy Johnson has come back to his parents' homeland to forge an international career in music - and believes other young Kiwis can do well here too.

Johnson, 29, lived his first 26 years in Australia, but came here three years ago because New Zealand was "the biggest hub", along with Hawaii, for his Polynesian style of music. He now performs for half the year here and half in the United States.

He is the headline act in a youth "jobfest" in Manukau tomorrow, where several thousand young people will meet about 50 employers offering jobs.

Despite near-record general employment rates, 9 per cent of young people aged 15 to 24 are still unemployed compared with 3.5 per cent of people aged 25 to 64.

In Auckland alone, 24,000 young people were not in employment, education or training (Neet) at the end of 2014 - 10.3 per cent of the 15 to 24 age group.

This is down from a recession peak of 14.7 per cent in 2009, but even in the boom years of 2004 to 2007 the city's annual youth Neet rate never fell below 10 per cent. Tim Watts, who co-founded the SchoolConnect careers website, said both young people and employers could do better. Young people had to be "work-ready" with driver's licences and tidy personal presentation, and employers had to carry through on high-level promises to employ youth.

The Warehouse yesterday became the sixth employer to sign a pledge to create jobs for youth, joining Auckland Council, Fletcher Building, the Hilton and InterContinental hotel groups and SkyCity.

The Recruitment and Consulting Services Association is also holding a youth forum for schools and employers in Auckland on Thursday to discuss ideas such as recruitment agencies running job preparation courses in schools.

Johnson, who was a social worker in Queensland, said he hoped his musical popularity would draw young people to the jobfest.

"My thing would be to encourage young people to get out there and have a look at what's available, because you guys have so much more to offer and assistance than I ever got in Australia," he said.

Two of Johnson's four siblings have also come back to their parents' homeland, and his Ngati Raukawa parents are selling their Brisbane home so they can return too.

"Australia was a good place. It was cool to live there and grow up there. But coming here to New Zealand I found was one of the best things I ever did," he said.

"In Australia ... it's like you just work and go home. There's no culture to the place. I can say that because I was born there. There is no real culture unless you are indigenous, and the way they treat their indigenous people is terrible.

"Over here it's great. We learn about it in schools, it's everywhere so I found coming back was awesome."

Youth jobfest

When: Tomorrow, 10am-3pm.

Where: MIT Manukau campus above the station, cnr Manukau Station Rd & Davies Ave.

Sponsors: Auckland Council Youth Connections, Careers NZ, Social Development Ministry, MIT.

Website: www.jobfest15.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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