Tag Archive for employment

Talk-ED: It all seems to work!

Stuart Middleton
5 September 2011

An interesting report[1] recently released by NCVER in Australia paints a picture for us of impact of work on school and postsecondary outcomes. This is timely with the general concern that so many students and especially those from lower socio-economic stressed areas, have to work to keep themselves and their families moving forward or perhaps even just standing still.

It is popularly thought that it has a negative effect on their educational progress.

This is a new worry really because in a previous generation after-school work was common and a welcome source of that little bit extra. But those jobs have increasingly been taken over by adults who cobble together a living through a collection of casual work.

What did the researchers find out?

That typically, students work 11-12 hours each week and females work a little more than males. The impact of this becomes slightly negative when the hours worked become greater but females manage the balance better than males. The most positive impact is that work while at school will lead to a better outcome in terms of finding fulltime employment after schooling has been completed.

This is in some ways not surprising but it does raise the question of what school systems do to assist with the sound management of a balance between work and schooling. School timetables can be relentless in their requirements and do not seem to be flexible in so many ways. Ought it to be possible for students to be able to undertake some work in a coherent manner without added pressure either to be at school so much and perhaps even being given credit for the work that they are doing?

This is simply “work experience” I hear some say. Well yes it is and there is a consistent drive on currently to see that increased work experience, becomes part of the senior school years. So perhaps the addition to work experience within a programme of work experience that students have the initiative to get outside of the programme could be given as much credit.

The skills of employment are learned by practising them in real settings with real employers and real customers – they do not lend themselves so well to classrooms although some of them can be simulated and certainly others can be practised – punctuality for instance.

I admire greatly the commitment in the USA to service education in education institutions. The way in which where possible students are employed creates a feeling of acknowledgement of the interface between education and employment that the faculty have successfully negotiated but which still faces the students. When I was a secondary Principal the school employed a number of students and I regretted that they did not receive formal credit for it but they were early days of qualifications frameworks and suchlike.

School to work is yet another transition that is hard and occurs too often at a point in time. The US makes very effective use of internships (often unpaid) and cadetships to provide work across transition points in education. Industry projects characterise some courses and of course the earn / learn options are becoming increasingly common. But they are generally a feature of postsecondary education and training. What about secondary education?

All the evidence increasingly points to the importance of work and career orientation for young people during their secondary schooling. Perhaps we should be negotiating agreements with local employees for work opportunities like we used to have – the after school job, the weekend job, the casual job.

Rather than get all tied up about youth rates and suchlike, let’s place value on the experience that it brings to young people, not to mention the positive impact on outcomes when it is balanced and in proportion.

Alison Anlezelark and Patrick Lim (2011) Does combining school and work affect school and post school outcomes?,  Adelaide, National centre for Vocational Education Research.

Talk-ED: Education creates jobs

Stuart Middleton
29 August 2011

There is a lot of talk currently about the importance of job creation if economies are to position themselves to grow out of the recessionary murk that pervades. But a lot of this obsession misses the point.

Education creates jobs. Jobs won’t create education and the benefits that go with them. So the focus only on a so-called “pipeline” that has jobs at the end of it misses the point. There is another pipeline that matters more – education.

The reason that so many young people are unemployed is not solely because the number of jobs has decreased but significantly more so because so many young people are unemployable. Even if the jobs appeared overnight the impact on the great pile of unfulfilled potential would be slight. The creation of youth employment rates would similarly put a few into work but they would not make the unemployable ready for work.

Years ago, the Manukau City Council, in a move rare among territorial authorities at the time, wrote an economic development strategy. It then was obvious that alongside that there was a need for an employment strategy. Having completed that, it was clear that the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle of a well-educated and knowledgeable community was an education strategy. Education begets employment begets economic growth.

It is no coincidence that Silicon Valley grew around Stanford University –indeed it got its start on Stanford land and with a great push from the Stanford Research Centre, established to give impetus to economic development after the Second World War. (Stanford University could also benefit from the income from land it couldn’t sell!) People like David Packard and Bill Hewlett weren’t recruited through an employment programme and subsequently turned out to be quite good – they were proven graduate students invited to pursue their work in the Stanford area. Education leads to job creation which leads to economic growth.

Some of the mythology around Bill Gates talks of how he “dropped out” of Harvard. Burst through the top would be more accurate than drop out of the bottom. He was greatly successful at every step of his education, well supported by his parents and got a great start at his exclusive primary school. He got opportunities to explore computers both in school and through parental connections in private companies; he produced the computer programme for scheduling classes at his school; in his sophomore year at Harvard the development of new computers presented him with what he saw as an opportunity to set up a company which he did with his parents’ support and approval. Educational “dropout”? Not for a moment. Education leads to job creation which leads to economic growth.

If there is a challenge in terms of economic growth in New Zealand and Australia it is the challenge of so many young people who at the point of completing their basic schooling do not have the skills to continue with an education that would make them employable. Once upon a time there were opportunities for such youngsters – low skilled and unskilled employment offered a chance to them to get a foot in the door and on the ladder. But that has dried up. Once upon a time a benign employer would give a raw kid a chance and that often turned out well. But that has dried up.

The young person who has the skills of employability – team work, communication, leadership, time management, creative thinking, striving for excellence – and can back these up with good literacy, numeracy and digital skills will be likely to be able to successfully seek employment. More so, if they have completed an educational programme in disciplines relevant to the field in which they are looking and can clearly demonstrate a few personal skills of energy, commitment, enthusiasm and good verbal skills. It probably helps not to have bits of wire stuck through odd places and tats on the forehead. None of that seems too hard and those who successfully complete their schooling and a postsecondary qualification will generally measure up.

We need a steady supply of such young people into the labour force at all levels so that those ahead of them can create the new jobs. Growth comes from such leadership and will never be created simply by wishing it could be. It is not the new recruit who will produce growth, they simply make it possible for the experienced and the developers and the entrepreneurs to do so.

Therefore is it pointless becoming paralysed by the clichés? We need to prepare people for jobs which don’t yet exist – what about preparing them for the ones that do? Everyone will have seven careers in a lifetime – what about getting them ready for the first one? We need new kinds of integrated skills – it helps to have skills that can be integrated. Growth happens because successful and highly educated professionals pull disciplines and activity in new directions creating new opportunities for those coming in. Businesses expand because they can do so with some confidence that there is a skilled workforce able to support the growth.

Economic growth is reliant on our creating more people who instead of taking from the public purse are able to contribute to it. And that requires high level educational success for all. Education creates jobs. When education fails, it only creates jobs in education. Education outcomes trump labour market outcomes every time!

Talk-ED: The Great Big Smouldering Issue!

Stuart Middleton
22  August 2012

It’s funny how you can be busily engaged in something at home and yet you can smell the pot starting to burn on the stove. You only hope that it is not too late and that neither the veges or the pot are beyond retrieval.

I instinctively feel that I can smell an educational pot starting to burn – the issue of youth unemployment, youth disengagement from school and teenage parents.

Increasingly you read reports and studies that have titles such as The Silent Epidemic and The Forgotten Half. Such titles capture pretty well the nature of this building crisis. It is reaching proportions where half of youth between 15 and 24 years are caught up in youth unemployment and/ or disengagement and it has crept up on us. This is at least worrying and at worst disastrous.

In twenty or so years time this considerable part of a generation will be aged between 35 and 44 years old, be parents, and be a critical segment of a New Zealand economy. Can we maintain our standard of living if this group has little potential to create wealth? Can we expect their children to succeed where they have failed? Can we expect this large group not to be a charge against the state?

I have written plenty about disengagement and policies such as the current Youth Guarantee set of initiatives that will help. But more fundamental changes are required in our schools. Multiple pathways through which young people have a range of options that lead them through to university and polytechnics, through to real qualifications that will ease their entry into the workforce, bring incomes (both to them through wages and to us through the tax they pay) and provide them with the wherewithal to support their families well through education.

So we need to keep on working on those areas but with greater urgency, wider reach and more marked impact.

I read in the newspapers that the Irish are to supply some of the labour required for the reconstruction of Christchurch. I can accept that we could be short on middle level experience – just as a basketball coach cannot teach height, an education provider cannot teach experience. But when it comes to raw grunt that is qualified to entry level, those jobs should go to New Zealanders and young New Zealanders at that.

This might require the Government to create jobs. But we are dealing with crisis here, both in post-quake Christchurch and in the slowly awakening education community. It would be my guess that we could easily train 5,000 young people to enter the workforce in Christchurch to work under supervision within 6 months and to maintain a supply after that. We did it after World War II, why not again now? Polytechnics could be challenged to meet these deadlines and to put into place an ongoing training capability in Christchurch. What about reinventing the “night school”? Drawing a workforce for Christchurch from across the youth of New Zealand has the advantage of returning qualified and experienced workers to many parts of New Zealand when the task is done.

What a golden opportunity we could make out of the unfortunate events. Construction, infrastructure, plumbing, painting, concrete workers, structural engineers and many more – we are here presented with real work to put alongside real training and real qualifications.

I can imagine that all this would not be greeted with joy by those managing the construction contracts but surely some additional support could be given to them to get this major training endeavour under way.

It is said that the needs of Christchurch in terms of rebuilding will take 10 or more years to complete so the timeframes here could change a whole generation and be the step change required if we are to return to an education system that will set most young people off on the pathways to prosperity. An approach like this could take the shape of a NZ Trades Corp.

Teen parents also require a special effort. There are it seems 28,000 young parents who were they not young parents, would be included in the statistics for NEETS (those not in employment, education or training). It seems crazy to simply accept that this group should be inactive (granted there is the not underestimated activity of parenthood) and special programs could easily be put into place for them surely. The great success over many years of units for teen mums would encourage us to set our sights high for the larger group.

There is an urgency about our seeking responses to the unsustainable size of the half of our young people who are dropping out of education and training and possibly out of sight. Bill Gates used to say that we should do something about all this because it is hurting them. He now says we should do something because it is hurting us!

Do I smell a pot burning or is it Rome?

Talk-ED: Is a "career" onward and upward or merely downhill?

Stuart Middleton
14 March 2011

It seems clear to me that careers education and advice needs to start well within the primary school and reach a point of clear direction at the transition into secondary school. But there is little agreement about this and the issues of careers education is one shared by many countries.

In the United States reports about the provision of careers advice and guidance are generally scathing about the quality and usefulness of advice given to high school students. One such report is Betraying the College Dream: How Disconnected K-12 and Post-secondary Education Systems Undermine Student Aspirations (Venezia, Kirst and Antonio, Stanford University’s Bridge Project.

Venezia, Kirst and Anotonio found that students have misunderstandings about the financial aspects of further study, little idea of the actual steps to take to align high school work with entry standards and curriculum content, misguided beliefs about subject choice and the degree of choice students will actually have should they proceed to college. They also identified other areas of more general concern: there were clear inequalities in the education system that seriously affected progress, student knowledge of requirements was sporadic and vague, teachers who are faced with providing the careers advice are not resourced to provide accurate information, and the availability and provision of data to support their work was simply non-existent.

In Australia they have a very broad Australian Blueprint for Career Development which is very much based on the identification of skills, attitudes and knowledge that individuals need if they are to make sound choices of career and later manage it effectively. It is broad and general.

In New Zealand there is the MOE Career Education and Guidance in New Zealand Schools handbook published in 2009. This is a general curriculum (?) for careers education and in the New Zealand tradition establishes broad and general goals which are open to interpretation in the local school.

I question some of the premises on which thinking about careers education is based in all of these countries. First, they all rely heavily on the untested assumption that young learners can internalise the concept of a career especially if the young person is exposed to it only in the context of a special and separate programme and they ignore the tremendously inequal roles that students homes play in all of this.

Is “career” a concept that is a priori or a posteriori? In other words, is a career something that one has at that early point simply through committing oneself to a line of work at the end of schooling or is it a reflection of a body of work over a significant part of a lifetime? For instance when did I become conscious of the fact that I might have a career in education and teaching? I am not sure that I am even aware of it now. Career is a word others use of me but which I do not use in describing my work.

Is not the issue for a young person which job they will do when they leave school or further education and training? Do they really at a young age embark on a “career” or do they head off into a job?

The other point at issue is the fact that home and socio-economic status has a huge impact on young people in this area and yet resources are spread without regard to the severe need of some students compared to the relatively little need of others.

Students who are born into homes of professional people get their careers education with their mother’s milk. Their upbringing is immersed in the value of education generally and the specific demands, positive attributes of particular professions or trades. That is why where parents are lawyers, young ones follow in their footsteps, the same with medicine, perhaps less so with teaching. Farmers’ children tend to stay on the farm a little less nowadays it is reported. 

But whatever the pathway, these students also know with some precision about the value of both the education that leads to entry into these areas and the rewards that come with them. Indeed they consume their share of the rewards. Indeed they consume their fair share of the rewards. My point is that such young people either have little need of formal careers education because they already have a future mapped out or alternately have a good basis for thinking about the future world of work for them, comparisons they can make, help they can access.

But for students who come from homes where this is not the case – parents who have little educational experience and are perhaps at the mercy of the impetuous nature of the labour market – need significant help from the schools And I say schools for a reason. Education systems which are successful in stitching together schooling systems with positive outcomes in terms of employment seem to have two clear decision points.

One is at about the age of 12/13 years and another around the age of 14/15 years. The first is to do with have the employment awareness at a level that sees a connection between education and the world of work and the second is about actually setting off on a pathway that is clearly designed to take them to a positive employment outcome of one kind or another. These systems are also flexible in such a way that these decision point are in an inclusive rather than an exclusive framework – that means there remains some opportunity to change direction.

I suspect that the discussion on careers education has yet to start.



Pathway-Ed: Educating on purpose

Stuart Middleton
9 March 2011

As educational professionals we are letting ourselves down by the continual use of wishy-washy statements about the purpose of education.

“We must prepare students for jobs that have not yet been invented.”

Really? Are workers going to live long enough to actually outlive whole occupational classes? Change doesn’t happen cataclysmically to the extent that in a short space of time, an occupational class disappears. In older times a book-keeper used to sit at a specially designed table that held the ledger book entering income and expenditure into it in a copper plate script. He (for it usually was) used the same principles that are used in entering income into a spreadsheet on a computer. Just as the pen replaced the quill now the pen is replaced by the cursor. The job has changed only to the extent that the tools required to undertake it have changed.

Sometimes new jobs arise such as, perhaps, a CNC Designer. Again, new tool but same old job that applies the principles of design learnt with a pencil and drawn on a drawing board. And so on.

“Well, then we must surely educate people to cope with seven jobs in a lifetime.”

Now, some people might work for a lot of bosses over a period of time but usually in the same occupational area. Even top executives who move from corporate to corporate would do so on the basis of taking with them a skill set that is identifiable, what they are known for and what is sought by the new employer. There is little evidence that we will have seven jobs that are in entirely different areas. We might well have seven jobs in the same discipline. I have personally had a huge range of jobs but all in educational institutions, each requiring growth in my set of skills and I have never sought a job outside of education. I guess that this is typical of most in education and in many other areas.

When the phrase “no previous experience required” is used in an advertisement it is usually code for a position that signals low or unskilled work. But people who develop a career usually do so within a pretty consistent skill set which might well continue to grow over time but which seldom head off in a wild tangential swing into a new field.

Finally there is that purpose that distracted us in the 1970s – we have to prepare people for increased leisure time. I didn’t know that back then when there was pretty well full employment they really meant part-time work or unemployment for they always spoke of a shorter working week, longer weekends. Well, it soon turned out in the 1980s that this was not to be the case – fewer people worked longer and increased numbers didn’t work at all.

So what is the purpose of education? Well I think it is simple. The purpose of early childhood education is to prepare children for primary school. The purpose of primary school is to prepare students for secondary schooling which in turn should prepare students for a vocational pathway. The notion of a “vocational pathway” includes all post-secondary education including the university.

The purpose of the university is to prepare people to contribute to society through high level thinking, the ability to have new ideas and to give new nuance to old ideas. But each of these high and new thinkers will need to make a living so regardless of the vocation they move into, it could be said that the purpose of a university is vocational. Of course some discipline areas – medicine, law, engineering town planning and so on – are blatantly vocational while other areas of study are preparing students for articulation into a postgraduate vocational programme such as teacher training and post-graduate specialist courses.

If the purpose of education ultimately boils down to being vocational then it makes sense to say that we are preparing people for whatever it is that they will need to next – in early childhood education it is primary school, in primary school it is secondary school and in secondary school it is post-secondary education and training or work. Good learning at every level is a mix of hard skills and soft skills backed by the technology that is typical of the time.

Simplifying purpose then sets the stage for a simpler set of goals and purpose. What should students know in order to be ready to start primary school, to enter secondary school and to graduate from secondary school into post-secondary education and training or into employment? Is that too hard for educators to agree on?

Now this simplistic framework is simply the skeleton on which education hangs so many exciting, extending activities introducing us to worlds we might never have known in which we might do jobs that we are prepared for because someone has the commonsense to teach us the skills and the knowledge to do a job that exists!.

Stepping off the summit

Stuart Middleton
New Zealand Education Review
Vol. 14 No.8, 6 March 2009, p.16
APN Educational Media (NZ) Ltd.

The recent job summit focussed predominantly on the here and now as it should indeed have done so.

A recent report published by the Committee for Auckland – “Growing Auckland Growing New Zealand” – gives cause for us to think that we should also focus on the medium term. We baby boomers are in our working prime but will soon start to exit the workforce in significant numbers. In fact a pattern has already been detected where more are leaving the workforce than are joining it. Bernard Salt, leading Australian commentator on demographic trends, calls the period when this figure approaches and then reaches zero, perhaps dips into negative territory and then pulls slowly back into a positive position, the demographic faultline.

New Zealand’s demographic faultline will occur in New Zealand between 2022 and 2032. That’s not that far away. During that, we will simply be unable to renew our workforce. As people leave they will be unable to be replaced. Other, that is, than by immigration.

The issue with this is that countries that experienced the baby boom will all experience the demographic fault-line at about the same time. During that period, competition for immigrants will be fierce.

Immigration will solve our problems will be the cry. It might well do so but how good are we at managing immigration and immigrants?

Well, we can attract educated immigrants. In fact, as a group, foreign-born New Zealanders are more highly educated than native-born New Zealanders. New Zealand attracts the educated and talented migrant. Rather than there being a brain drain, there is a brain gain. In terms of secondary education and at the bachelor degree level, New Zealanders born overseas are more highly qualified than those born in New Zealand.

But there is a catch to all this. Foreign-born New Zealanders are twice as likely to be unemployed. And we all know the stories – taxis driven by qualified medical doctors, qualified nurses emptying bed-pans in old folk’s homes. We attract immigrant talent but then waste it. Why do we do this?

Partly it is because of a completely foolish attitude towards English spoken with an accent. Hundreds of nurses who can speak English well are not allowed to practice their vocation because it has been decided that an irrelevant English language test has more validity than sound training programmes, experience and commitment. The only valid test would be one based on the English needed to be a nurse, or an engineer, or a teacher. Sitting a generalised test of English language is not a test of language in the real world other than in the real world of sitting a generalised test. Nurses, teachers and accountants are here and available to contribute but are locked out because of these attitudes. There should be an enquiry into this.

It has been reported that if Canada were to solve the issue of unrecognised qualifications it would mean an additional $4.1 – 5.9 billion of income each year. I wonder what the gains would be to New Zealand. Do we even want to know?

I frequently hear employers complaining of the need to recruit new staff from overseas. Are qualified migrant workers here being overlooked or being placed into work that is well below their qualification level?

Then there is the matter of the young ones. One response to the threat of the demographic faultline waiting out there for us in about 12 years time would be to solve the issue of young New Zealanders, both native born and foreign born, who slip through school without achieving, who disengage from learning and who become a liability rather than an asset. If the NEET estimates are right, the 25,000 young people not in employment education or training could be very handy when we get short of workers.

That should be a goal.

The one thing we know about an economic crisis is that after the downturn comes the recovery. The current declining employment opportunities present an opportunity for some creative thinking about the work force and how to nourish it.

A very good thing about the job summit was that ROSLA (raising of the school leaving age) never made an appearance. School leaving ages have never worked and raising it never results in higher standards achievement. Quite the reverse. Proportionately fewer 16 year olds are engaged in schools now with the leaving age at 16-years than was the case when the leaving age was 15-years.

Jurisdictions that raise school leaving ages (for this read Australian states and the good old UK) have simply run out of ideas.

What is needed is a legally enforceable education and training requirement up to the age of 20 with an employment requirement for two years after that. And this should be monitored. Other countries do this and so should we. Most young people will be engaged and require only the lightest of monitoring. The hard core will require insistent and clear monitoring.

 Perhaps another area would be that of the students in summer employment. This year could be tough with fewer jobs available. Local authorities and tertiary institutions could be harnessed on this one. Creative employment that enhances communities and institutions would be paid with a $4,000 scholarship that can only be cashed up for the following years tuition fees. The University of Auckland has suggested that research would be an area with many opportunities for such a scheme.

Keeping students out of the conventional workforce this year would probably be a useful move.

Harnessing the skills of foreign born New Zealanders. Education and training release time. Innovative student holiday employment schemes. Increased management training. And so on. And so forth.

There are lots of ways we could get this country working

Digging for a solution

Stuart Middleton
New Zealand Education Review
Vol. 14 No.7, 27 February 2009, p.16
APN Educational Media (NZ) Ltd.

Hi Ho Hi Ho , Its off to work we go!!

It wasn’t just Dopey, Grumpy Sleepy and their mates that sang this refrain – it was pretty well the chorus from everyone who once left school. From the late 1940’s through to the late 1960’s New Zealand achieved pretty well full employment and young people knew that ahead of them lay work.

That all changed when New Zealand decided that 6% unemployment would be something of an acceptable going rate and the dream that New Zealand kids had of slinging their metaphorical shovels over their shoulders and marching down into the mine with the Seven Dwarfs was over. Little wonder then that at a time of real crisis there should be a gathering to address the issue of employment – instead of going down to the coalface the wise ones head for the summit.

There is in our community a significant group of people for whom “economic crisis” is not an event but an environment in which they live every day of their lives.

The current focus on saving jobs for those already in work, on retraining those whose jobs are at risk and on finding positive activity for those with days on which there is no work is responsible and right. But they will be actions that address the here and now, a response to a crisis at one point in time.

Underlying this is an ongoing and more fundamental economic crisis that will not be addressed by these actions and which will one day prove to be the defining crisis – too many of our young people are not only unemployed they are also unemployable. Such young people are clustered into communities of disadvantage with all the issues that this brings – violence, poor housing, bad health and a lack of social cohesion that all have a cost associated with them.

Department of Labour figures show that the Auckland region is home to 35% of the young people in New Zealand. In Counties Manukau there is a concentration of young Maori and a third of all young Pacific people live in this region. With 17% youth employment in this region, the issue is not that the current crisis will take people out of work but that even when we are not in crisis we get too few people into work, especially young people.

The figures quoted above are from 2006, a time of robust levels of employment in New Zealand. With overall unemployment figures now expected to reach double figures, this issue will escalate quickly. Young people in Manukau, 48% of them, work in businesses that have over 100 employees. When such companies take a hit (such as that seen recently at Fisher and Paykel) the impact is serious.

There is in New Zealand up to 25,000 young people who are NEET – not in employment education or training. These people exit the education system without a pathway into further education and training and in most cases without the skills to enter employment. Not all stay out of work but the road into employment for those who need a second chance at preparing themselves is painful and expensive. The cost to the individual is significant and the cost to the country even greater.

A recent Ministry of Social Development report, Youth Transitions Series 2003,  points to “those who are inactive for prolonged periods of time have a heightened risk of poor outcomes including: lower earnings; greater reliance on social assistance; and higher rates of unemployment, criminal offending, substance abuse, teenage fertility, suicide, homelessness and mental or physical ill health.” If not a powder keg, inactivity is at least a potent and dangerous brew.

The seemingly worthy goal of preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist is something of a luxury when young people are not prepared for jobs that do exist! And the task is one that cannot solely be the responsibility of the formal education system. Those with inactive parents are likely themselves to be inactive. The social construct called “the disadvantaged community” is discouraging to those on the margins of engagement.

Employment is not a pair of socks that you put on when your toes get cold or something that you clip on your belt when the whim to work takes you. It is the result of a long process in which three dots must be connected.

The first of these is access to two years of quality early childhood education. Longitudinal studies show that the advantage of this remains with young people throughout their formal schooling. The second is the completion of secondary school – those who disengage at some point in their secondary schooling are immediately at risk. Completing secondary school makes it more likely that a young person will go on the complete a postsecondary qualification, the third dot. Connecting those dots creates the desire to work and the ethic required to sustain employment.

Long term, the solution to the economic crisis is tied up in these three key dots. We simply must minimise the supply of those who fuel economic crisis by their inability to contribute productively. Yes there will also be those who need a helping hand but we could also do this better if we have eliminated the waste of human resources that we currently see.

It would be tragic if in addressing the issues of an economic crisis for which global causes are blamed, we failed to see the home grown crisis steadily but not so quietly creeping up on us. Our ability to sustain an economy of the kind that has brought a sound standard of living and a life with prospects to most (but not all) New Zealanders relies both on our getting through the immediate crisis and our willingness to tackle the larger and more fundamental crisis of youth unemployment.

That family of countries I have written about so often – New Zealand, Australia, Canada. United States and Great Britain – share a grim statistic outside of education but not unrelated to it. Around the period 2025 – 2030, they will reach zero or even negative growth in the working age population. There will be fierce international competition for skilled young people. Will we be ready? Or should we carry on and just whistle while we work?