Getting ready for young employees
Getting your workplace ready to support young employees is an important first step. The culture of an organisation makes a difference to hiring, developing and keeping young staff.
Employers can make their organisation youth-friendly by:
- Having programmes in place to choose staff from as wide and diverse pool as possible.
- Working collaboratively to build skills in their community and to invest in the future of their workforce.
- Offering opportunities for youth to learn about the workforce and become more employable (eg connects with schools/tertiary education and provides work experience or site visits).
- Identifying pathways to develop and progress staff, making the best use of their workforce.
- Providing mentorship and support systems for young people starting out in the workforce.
- Creating an inclusive workplace recognising the culture and values of all staff. Read top tips to increase diversity in your organisation from Diversity Works New Zealand (external link)
A positive work environment supports and motivates staff and helps them commit to the organisation. For more information on the main approaches to workplace productivity, see productive workplaces.
Define the job
Before you start the hiring process, think about what skills and attributes you must have in a successful candidate. There might be some things an applicant can develop or be trained for on the job. Every organisation is different and is looking for different things. If soft skills and attitude are important in your hiring decision, think about how young people might show these. Consider what ‘hard’ or technical skills you need. Could they be learnt on the job?
When defining the job there are some restrictions in the hours and type of work that they can do, particularly if the candidate is under 16 years of age.
Offer work experience
Work experience prepares young people by letting them experience what work will be like, and what to expect. It gives you confidence about the skills young people can bring to the workforce and is a way to introduce young people to careers in your industry. It can also be a way to meet potential new staff. The government helps young people and employers to connect through work experience programmes.
Ways employers can offer work experience
- Gateway is a scheme for schools to provide structured workplace learning in the workforce. Students can receive credits towards qualifications on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQA), including NCEA, and gain experience for future career pathways through work placements. Refer to the Youth Guarantee website (external link)
- School to work programmes introducing employers and young people are organised by industry training organisations and by local Youth Guarantee providers (external link)
- Work Inspiration is a work exploration programme showcasing industry pathways to 13 to 18 year olds. It provides an opportunity for young people to research career options and is designed to encourage career conversations alongside hands-on activities. For employers, some set-up time is required to plan the programme and tailor the materials. Support materials and advice are available. The programme is supported by Careers New Zealand (external link)
- Work and Income (external link) can organise work placements for their jobseekers for up to four weeks.
- For businesses that carry out research and development, Callaghan Innovation (external link) can subsidise placements for tertiary students over the summer break.
How to recruit young staff
Taking the time to plan the hiring process for all staff, including young people, is important. You can tap into some great young talent by thinking about the best ways to connect with young job seekers and by being clear on what you’re looking for.
Many young people are exploring career options through education and are getting a head-start on the work skills that businesses need. Industry organisations, education providers and organisations working with young people can help to match employers and young job seekers ensuring they are the right fit for each other.
Download the Hiring and keeping young staff infographic [PDF 60KB] for tips on how to hire, train and progress young people in employment.
Initiatives to help employers find young staff
- Job fairs and careers expos connect employers with job seekers. To find out what is happening in your area look online, in newspapers or contact local tertiary providers and economic development agencies (external link)
- Young people are learning trades and technology skills while studying towards NCEA at Trades Academies. They are a partnership between schools and tertiary education. Find out more on the Youth Guarantee website (external link)
- There are lots of young people in tertiary education preparing for work. Look for the employer pages on the websites of tertiary providers or check if local industry associations or economic development agencies have connections.
- In some regions, business groups, employers, education providers and community groups are partnering to improve connections for young people transitioning from school to employment. Find out more on the Youth Guarantee website (external link)
- Industry training organisations (ITOs) can also help to match employers and job seekers. Refer to the directory of ITOs published by the Tertiary Education Commission (external link)
- Work and Income (external link) has a range of recruitment services for their job seekers, at no charge to employers.
- Te Puni Kōkiri (external link) works with employers to offer cadetships in growth industries to provide Māori the opportunity to gain work experience, obtain qualifications and build industry networks.
- The Limited Service Volunteer (LSV) programme (external link) is a six week course for young people challenges, life skills and getting ready for work. Work and Income helps businesses to employ LSV graduates with a support package that can include wage subsidies, training, mentoring and in-work help.
Tips for selecting young staff
- Be clear on what you are looking for. Providing young people with advice on what specific experience and skills are needed for the job can help them to develop a relevant job application. It’ll make it easier for you to assess applications too.
- Young people have different communication preferences. Consider sending text messages to contact job applicants. Many young people don’t answer mobile phone calls from numbers they don’t know and don’t have landlines.
- Group interviews and informal information sessions can help put young people at ease. It will enable you to get a better idea of their personality and fit with your organisation.
- Consider inviting young people to bring a support person to their interview. Talking with families can be helpful.
- Keep in contact with all applicants throughout the application process. Let unsuccessful candidates know as soon as possible and give them feedback about why they were unsuccessful.
- If a candidate is progressing, let them know what the next steps in the process are so that they stay interested in the job and can prepare properly.
- Check if young people have a plan to get to and from work, particularly if starting early or finishing late. If not, give them time to develop a plan or provide help with travel (eg provide information about public transport and parking, or consider facilitating carpooling if there are several employees living in the same area).
- Explain health and safety in your organisation and the reasons for drug or alcohol tests. Drug testing can be off-putting to young people if they’re not expecting it or they don’t understand that it’s routine.
Be clear on your expectations
It’s especially important that you give clear instructions and make your expectations clear to young workers. It may be their first experience of working. Clarifying expectations will reduce potential misunderstandings and help the young employee to succeed in their job. This includes:
- Going through job descriptions and performance agreements to make sure they understand the outcomes expected.
- If a job has to be done in a certain way, employers should make sure that employees knows this.
- If there is a dress code, make sure that the employee understands what this looks like in practice (eg ‘professional’ may mean something different to the employer and young staff).
- Give examples of what is acceptable and unacceptable and ask questions to make both employer and employee have a shared understanding.
Tools and Resources
Hiring and keeping young staff - PDF 60KB
Ideas and help for employers to hire, train and retain young people.
Finding young staff - PDF 63KB
Tips for employers on finding the right person and help that's available.
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