NZ Institute targets youth disadvantage

Two initiatives have been identified as the way to improve the lot of New Zealand's youth.

The New Zealand Institute's first social well-being discussion paper More ladders, fewer snakes: Two proposals to reduce youth disadvantage, investigated the plight of New Zealand's youth, who make up a greater percentage of New Zealand's unemployment than any other country in the OECD.

Promoting e-learning and improving the school to work transition are two ways to reverse that trend, the paper said.

E-learning, combined with a school improvement programme, improves student engagement and learning outcomes, it said, citing successful examples of decile one primary schools using e-learning.

“E-learning can reach everyone and improve outcomes for those already disadvantaged,” said Dr Rick Boven, director of the New Zealand Institute.

“It should be scaled urgently and systematically with the initial priority being the lowest decile schools.”

New Zealand’s school-to-work transition is not working well, the paper said.

It found many young people were leaving school but not finding their way into permanent work successfully.

Although some students are given career guidance based on a professional understanding of their interests and aptitudes, many are not, the paper said.

One third of students commencing higher education courses fail to complete their first year or do not continue into the following year, it said, while the majority of trade apprentices do not complete their training.

The changes proposed involve refocusing existing capacity, capability and effort. As the best performing OECD countries have much lower costs for youth issues than New Zealand, the paper said large improvements could be achievabled.

Many people are making a difference for youth and successes are being achieved in New Zealand, it said, but the institute’s investigations did not reveal evidence of a well-organised centre hungry for valuable interventions and capable of scaling them.

“The challenge now is to find a person or agency with the leadership, motivation, resources and mandate to successfully drive the effort and coordination needed to launch the changes we propose,” Dr Boven said.

New Zealand’s youth are materially disadvantaged relative to the OECD average on measures of unemployment, crime, health and safety, and teenage births,” he said.

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