Public speaker Dale Williams says we should find the spark inside each young person and "throw petrol on it, not water - ignite it!"
Williams was in Whanganui last week to share his experience in bridging the gap between schools and employers in provincial towns, as part of a jobs expo for high school students. He has a breadth of knowledge on transitioning youth to work, and some of his ideas turn old thinking on its head.
"Young people coming into jobs now are trained and educated. They are very IT savvy. They're very understanding of technology and most of our industries are reliant on technology," Williams said.
"But we still try and encourage young people to start at the bottom and slowly work their way up. If the young person coming into your business is at a higher level with technology than someone further up the chain, why wouldn't you harness that and use it?"
In a global job market provincial towns often struggle to attract or retain youth, but an ageing population means economic sustainability may rely on them.
"Our local job market has to be continually attractive," said Williams. "It doesn't mean changing the standards or changing what we do. But we have to be continually packaging our offering to young people in language and with incentives that are real to them, that speak to their purpose and values and just show that we understand them and we value them."
A motorbike mechanic, business owner, public servant and now public speaker, Williams was mayor of Ōtorohanga for almost a decade. In 2004, the small South Waikato community began a programme that saw youth employment abolished and a 95 per cent achievement rate in apprenticeships. Incidentally, youth crime and vandalism disappeared.
The initiative has now been turned into a resource to share with other communities. Known as the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, it focuses on vocational training using council connections with local industry to facilitate local employment.
It is being adopted in Whanganui and surrounding regions including Ruapehu, Rangitīkei, South Taranaki, Stratford and Horowhenua. The number of people on jobseeker benefits in these areas sits at around 8 per cent.
Williams says vocational training works for everybody.
"You don't know what you don't know. If you've already decided that you're going to university or you're going to a particular pathway, sometimes the real pathway that's hidden inside you? That's really your passion. You don't really know it until you have a chance to be involved in it.
"I really advocate young people particularly that they get involved with gateway, they get involved with work experience and that they just try stuff."
The comprehensive expo of Whanganui businesses was funded by the Ministry of Education, with aims to raise the profile of vocational education pathways for young people in the region.
For more information contact 100% Sweet Whanganui or call in to their office on the corner of Drews Ave and Taupo Quay.
Dale Williams' Auckland TedX talk 'Small Town Big Change, is available to view online.
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