The city is working hard to maximise the potential of its youth, reports Greg Hall.

Auckland is heading for a really strong economic boom, and the only thing holding it back is businesses feeling that they can't get the workers, says Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse.

Says Hulse, "Hang on a minute, 23,000 unemployed young people seems like a solution to that problem. It's just a case of saying to employers that hiring young people isn't as scary as it seems.

"To that end, we provide an open front door - a conduit - through our youth employment summits, where young people can go, meet employers and the employers can feel they've met this really great young person and give them a go. It's nothing more complicated than that," she explains.

"When you're young and you don't have a job or money, and you don't have a lot of self confidence, getting on a bus and going half way across Auckland to put yourself in front of someone for a job interview can almost be a step too far, whereas with the summits, it's youth-focused, and you can suddenly go with a group of your friends and engage with local employers."

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The Youth Connections programme, spearheaded by Mayor Len Brown and Hulse, looks to connect young Aucklanders with job, education and training opportunities. The latest summit hosted over 200 young people. The next summit, planned for February is expected to draw over 1000.

Youth employment

27 per cent of young Aucklanders are unemployed.
23,200 young Aucklanders are not involved in any form of education, employment, or training.

Gael Surgenor is acting general manager for the Southern Initiative, Auckland Council's program for improving South Auckland. She is also a member of the Youth Connections leadership team.

"Employers tell us that if we can find them 100 young people with a drivers' license that are willing to work, we'd hire them all. The summits are our way of helping that."

In addition to acting as a conduit between youth and prospective Auckland employers, the Youth Connections programme helps them to construct CVs, organise drivers' licence training and prepare them for the process of getting a job.

"There are some young kids that come from families where no one is employed," says Hulse. "So for us, it's about discussions that need to happen about just what going to work is."

The growth of the program since its inception in 2012 has meant that the need to measure the programme's successes has grown also. Because of this, Youth Connections is looking at launching a web-based tool for young people to better engage with the initiative. It will enable young people to create online work profiles where they can upload their CVs and seek out and receive information about job openings to which they may be suited.

"Young workers find jobs through our program, but it's difficult to track the successes of the placements once they find a job. This will be a useful tool for that. It is going to be piloted next year for use in a number of schools and districts. From there, we'll see how it grows and then adapt and refine it," Surgenor says.

Fletcher Building became Auckland Council's first Youth Employment Pledge Partner earlier this year, pledging effort to increase the number of opportunities for youth offered by the company as well as a commitment to implement processes which engender a supportive working environment for young employees.

"Fletcher Building needs good people and we are passionate about working with people at the beginning of their career," explains CEO Mark Adamson. "We are committed to diversity and value the contribution young people can make to an organisation like ours."

As for the Council, a commitment to work in this area is a no-brainer. "You might get your cynics saying, 'Why is the Council involved with this?'" says Hulse. "But the reality is, we're under the pump to get houses built, under pressure from the Government to get houses coming up out of the ground, getting consents, working with developers. And the gap? Having the hands physically working on the buildings. So for us, the logical thing is to say, 'How about we fill those gaps?'."