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Supporting young people into employment

Cover of the Guidelines for Employers booklet, designed by June Lincoln, Design Studio, The Printery, Massey University.

Professor Jackie Sanders and Professor Robyn Munford.
Photo credit: Jane Ussher.

Two Massey University academics have used their research findings to craft guidelines for businesses, to help support young people into employment.

The guidelines will assist employers to better understand the experiences of vulnerable young people and to develop effective strategies for working with youth who are not involved in education or training.

The 45-page document is based on two Massey research projects – the Pathways to Resilience and Youth Transitions studies, led by Professor Robyn Munford and Professor Jackie Sanders, from the School of Social Work.

“Employment offers the opportunity for young people to make decisions, to contribute to a team, and to set goals,” Professor Munford says. “Through work, young people can experiment with career pathways, and identify future jobs or skills they would like to acquire. Ideally, young people’s transitions into employment allow for the development of positive identities, however, research shows that employment can often be quite fraught for them.”

Professor Sanders says the process of applying for jobs and learning about workplace culture can be confusing. “Many young people do not have adequate resources, either from family, school, or community, to orient them to the world of work. Employers can assist young people by showing that they understand this phase in life can be daunting and confusing, by providing constructive feedback to young people who seek work with them, and by sharing their networks and contacts.”

Given that employment is such a crucial stepping-stone for young people into adulthood, independence and self-sufficiency, employers are uniquely positioned to influence young people by playing roles as mentors and supervisors, she adds.

Professor Munford says it helps when employers consider a young person’s situation, their needs, strengths, and challenges. “Understand that young people might have extra challenges getting to and from work, so you may need to be a little more patient. They may not have the proper clothes or uniform to wear to work, so be clear about the dress code but also help them plan what they can wear, or where to shop for appropriate clothing.

“It’s also important to give young people time to adjust to their roles and be clear and proactive in offering support and guidance for how they can better meet expectations or grow professionally,” she says.

Professor Sanders adds; “Younger employees also benefit from more training, particularly on the job training that builds competence in particular roles. Although employers might prioritise training and professional development for the high-performers, training is equally an opportunity to re-engage employees who are struggling. Finding ways to offer training not only empowers young people with new skills and confidence on the job but also conveys an employer’s investment in building them up and keeping them around.

“When young people feel supported, believed in and empowered, they are likely to be more engaged and motivated in services or activities. This investment in young people also helps instil hope and positivity for the future, especially as it pertains to their employment prospects,” Professor Sanders says.

The guidelines were developed by Professor Munford and Professor Sanders from the School of Social Work, Massey University, with Robyn Lentell from Youth Connections, Auckland Council, and Lauren Alessi, Will Johnston, and Ruth Ballantyne who are based in the Faculty of Law, University of Otago.

The guideline booklet was designed by June Lincoln, Design Studio, The Printery, Massey University.

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