We all want a New Zealand where citizens can enjoy a healthy and prosperous life. But, there is still a long way to go.
To pick one statistic: in 2017, 90,000 youth were neither in education nor in employment.
When we have such high numbers of disengaged youth, often with few marketable skills, it is worth considering whether there is a better approach.
In Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, and Austria, post-school training serves a dual purpose: it prepares young people for the workplace, and it responds to the skills needs of the labour market.
Typically in a Dual Education model, students split their time between classroom instruction at a vocational school and job training at a company. The paid training generally lasts two to four years and ends with a national qualification.
In these countries, vocational training is not regarded as the poor relation of a university pathway. Most school leavers there choose the vocational track and can select from hundreds of courses we would otherwise consider university types here.
And overall unemployment and youth unemployment levels are lower in many of these places compared with New Zealand.
At least this is what I gather from behind the computer. But there can be a world of difference between desktop research and on-the-ground observations.
So, I am heading to Europe to learn, first-hand, how the four countries manage school-to-work transitions in a seemingly seamless fashion.
I will visit corporations of varying sizes as well as leading education providers to observe the dual training in motion.
Interviewees will include key stakeholders: from apprentices to training managers, to employers’ federations and trade unions. And of course, I will speak to reformers, policymakers, and fellow researchers.
We all know that a youth excluded from the labour market has negative implications not just for the individuals, but for the society too. Given thousands of young New Zealanders are subsequently out of the labour market in their early 20s, I am looking forward to learning whether the European model is one worth considering.
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