I recently had the incredible opportunity to deepen my pool of knowledge by learning from my contemporaries in New Zealand how they upskill and connect their growing number of unemployed youth to career pathways.

I traveled to Auckland to deliver the keynote address at the “Future Ready. Tomorrow’s Workforce. Ready Now.” summit on July 26 on the topic: “Leading Employer-led Solutions in the USA and Auckland.” Afterwards, I facilitated a breakout session on maximizing workplace diversity with employers, educators and workforce development professionals. Like LeadersUp, they are looking for ways to engage disconnected young adults and close the talent gaps negatively impacting businesses in the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Lack of access to entry-level and mid-skills-level talent is a pain point experienced by businesses worldwide. I was excited to share with the more than 200 people in attendance LeadersUp’s approach to working with employers to build talent pipelines with work-ready, diverse young adult talent.

Prior to speaking at the summit, I also met with local officials, including Patrick McVeigh, general manager of Business, Innovation and Skills at Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), the region’s economic growth agency and “Future Ready” summit organizer. I told him about practical employer-led programs that are making a real difference in the U.S., and offered proven strategies for optimizing education and training resources to fill talent needs.

“Youth unemployment is a global issue and sharing key learnings with other countries, such as America, will help close the divide between young people who are eager to progress in their career and employers seeking skilled talent,” McVeigh said. “Employing young people not only helps to tackle Auckland’s high youth unemployment rate, but also reduces the impact of an aging workforce, and brings a digitally savvy group with a fresh perspective into our workplaces.”

New Zealand’s Household Labour Force data estimates that nearly 90,000 youth ages 15–24 are not in education, employment or training (NEETs). NEETs have attributes and challenges similar to Opportunity Youth in America. They come from diverse Pacific and European cultures and are primarily from low-income communities where their social status and earning potential is impacted by where they grew up, the quality of their education, and job training opportunities. As in the U.S., employers in New Zealand say they are willing to hire young adults who possess a good attitude and provide them training. But many youth lack the soft skills needed to meet basic requirements to be work-ready.

McVeigh and I agreed that business leaders, educators and policymakers collaborating with tertiary organizations like LeadersUp is the way forward. He shared that nearly 70 leading Auckland employers signed the Youth Employer Pledge, a key initiative aimed at getting more young people into work and onto career pathways.

My Auckland experience reinforced in my mind the similarities and interconnectedness of our global economies. Around the world, stakeholders are coming together to ensure the next generation of talent is connected to viable career pathways that allow youth to make the transition from school to work. Investing in them helps us all.

For the future,

Jeffery Wallace

President & CEO