An idea worth exploring?

Dieter Adam 4 September 2023

We are all familiar with “we can’t get enough (of the right) young people to take up a career in manu-facturing”. And the way we try to address that is to entice young people by pointing out the key features of working in manufacturing that set us apart from other careers – pay, job satisfaction, career opportunities, etc.

But what about other factors / considerations that influence young people’s career choices? There appears to be more surmission than hard fact in the form of proper sociological research. The situation looks a bit more favourable in Australia – see, for example, here. Work in New Zealand tends to focus more on those at risk, as covered in this report. Overall, there is sufficient evidence to support the notion that the transition of young people into adulthood is taking longer than it did, say, 50 years ago ( ).

Universities, having recognised this, are increasingly putting resources into providing first-year students in particular with accommodation and other flanking measures of support. This based on the insight that access to quality accommodation in halls of residence appears to be a key determinant of choice of university.

What about those not going to university? Well, the Ara Institute (part of Te Pukenga) is offering a limited number of places in its Ōtautahi House in apartment-style accommodation with other students in a flat share. However, “preference will be given to students enrolling in full-time study, and those relocating to Christchurch for study from other regions.”

For apprentices in work-based learning, there is some ‘pastoral care’ support available for those that are part of a group-training scheme, like atnz (apprenticeship training nz) for engineering, or ETCO (Electrical Training Company) for the electrical trade. And, of course, some employers are happy to provide some pastoral care in addition to the trades training, but others feel that they lack the capacity and/or capability to provide ‘mum and dad support’ for their apprentices. And none of that provides any help with accommodation. At a recent visit to a TAFE campus focused on manufacturing training in Western Sydney, I was told that apprenticeship completion rates were significantly lower for those no longer living at home. Many of the latter dropped out in favour of full-time employment for financial reasons.

A recent report from Germany presented a pilot project where a local body, in collaboration with a not-for-profit social support agency, is establishing halls of residence-type accommodation for apprentices, including measures of pastoral care for residents – with the declared aim of making the region a more attractive place for manufacturers to invest.

It is hard to imagine anyone putting their hand up for a similar initiative in New Zealand. But if we are serious about a ‘whatever-it-takes’ approach to attracting more (b)right young people into manu-facturing, we might just have to cast the net a bit wider to succeed?

PS: Update from Germany: 20% fewer students enrolled in engineering than five years ago, with a disproportionate share of international students, at least some of which may decide to move on home, or to other countries at some stage after completing their studies. One of the root causes: Engineering is regarded as a ‘hard’ subject, because of ‘the maths’. And the malaise sets in early: In year 4, 20% of pupils are lacking basic maths skills, rising to 25% in year 9, with the outlook being this getting worse. Sounds familiar …?

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: