Auckland Council is very serious about youth employment.

Fran O'Sullivan called on Prime Minister John Key to be "bold and courageous" and "get serious on youth employment" upon his return from Hawaii. Excellent stuff.

This country certainly needs the Government to tackle the issue of youth employment, or should I say youth UNemployment. Thankfully in the absence of that commitment, Auckland Council is doing just that - being bold and courageous as well as delivering through our Youth Connections project.

The mayor and I know it's all very well having economic development strategies and schemes, and of course we need them, but any strategies and schemes must turn into jobs and some of those jobs must be for our young people.


Auckland has about 34,000 young people not in education, employment or training - a seriously worrying statistic. As identified in the Auckland Plan, this city's 30-year blueprint, putting children and young people first is a key driver to ensure Auckland reaches its economic potential.

If we want to be the world's most liveable city - and we do and we are well on the way to achieving that - we must have simple, effective initiatives that create the human resources we need in the future by giving someone a chance today. We are saying to our young people - we need you to help create our vision and be part of the legacy of Auckland.

The young people are listening. We know they are because of the early success of our Youth Connections project. Auckland Council has made a commitment to a financial and philosophical partnership with the Tindall Foundation and the Auckland Airport Community Trust to implement this exciting project.

The key principle is that local champions connect schools and young people with opportunities in employment, education and training. It's about providing local leadership and solutions to local issues. And it's about building high trust relationships with employers and encouraging the business community to take a leading role for the future of their workforce.

The Youth Connections framework is based on the mayor's Taskforce for Jobs "youth to work" strategy. Each Local Board tailors that framework to the particular needs of the young people in its community. The project works collaboratively with schools, youth programmes, employers and central government to connect key parties to create opportunities for young people. To get them back on track in a dynamic, advancing economy to ensure their success and to build a strong workforce.

And it's working, even though it's still early days. Five community co-ordinators in local board areas (Otara-Papatoetoe, Mangere-Otahuhu, Puketapapa, Maungakiekie-Tamaki and Hibiscus and Bays) have been employed and a number of employers have offered immediate or future positions for local young people including The Warehouse, Kmart, Vodafone, Gilmours, and Skids. Employers are willing to sign up and placements have been made. Fonotaga Opetaia, 21, is working 40 hours a week at Vodafone's online shop in Manukau, being paid well above the minimum wage and loving it.

Imagine if we could do that for all our young people. Let's set our sights high. Let's focus our energy on getting young people into work, not just work experience. Let's show the rest of the country how Auckland can and is working.

The council's much debated governance structure enables us to work well on this initiative by using a high-level regional platform and delivering through our Local Boards on a local level. Youth Connections is about the local community taking responsibility for local decisions using local resources. It's about "owning" youth employment.

Local communities will flourish through supporting youth to transition to the workforce and it is a great opportunity for businesses to invest in their future workforces to build strong, sustainable businesses. The project connects the identified needs of local businesses with the development of local youth, ensuring youth are upskilled in ways that meet the needs of local employers.

Youth Connections is all about providing clear pathways for young people to fulfil their potential, one of the biggest things we can do to improve our economic position.

And it's one of the biggest things we can do to progress our journey to being the world's most liveable city. We're talking on-the-ground action and delivery and we're talking success. That's what I'd call a super initiative from, and in, a super city.

Penny Hulse is Auckland's Deputy Mayor and represents Auckland on the Mayor's Taskforce for Jobs.