Strong connections between schools and employers supports careers advice for rangatahi

Exposure to the world of work helps young people to form realistic views of different career pathways. One way to achieve this is to provide young people with opportunities to spend time in workplaces.

Young people highly rate the impact of direct exposure to workplaces to help them make career decisions.[1] Research has also shown that greater engagement of young people with employers during their education can result in higher earnings and productivity. This suggests that when young people are given access to relevant, authentic, and timely information about careers, they will be better placed to find their way into those parts of the labour market that best value their knowledge and skills.[2]

The different stages and times for engagement can be expressed through the WE3 continuum. The WE3 approach to career readiness is described as “scaffolding vocational education and successful youth transitions through Work Exposure, Work Exploration and Work Experience”:[3]

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For the most part, initiatives to support connections between schools and businesses are regional and are often driven by a few key people from within schools/business. There are risks with this model as it relies on people to go over and above their day job, and if key people leave the initiative can lose momentum.

The Ministry of Education provides guidance for schools looking to enhance their connections with employers through the Employer Engagement Toolkit.

This toolkit provides guidance on developing an engagement strategy, identifying and planning engagement with businesses, maintaining the relationships, and reviewing and evaluating the programme.

The toolkit can be found here:

Employer Engagement Toolkit [PDF, 4.6MB](external link) – Ministry of Education

Examples of government-funded programmes available

  • To support connections, in 2019 the government introduced the Education to Employment Brokerage Service. As part of this, brokers across the regions are tasked with building strong relationships with schools and businesses, and act as a liaison between schools and employers in their region. Funding is provided by Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and ends in June 2025. Examples of initiatives being driven locally by the education to employment broker include Empower (tech and coding event for young people), a building academy at Queen Charlotte College and industry engagement days with local sectors including aquaculture and aged care.
  • The Inspiring the Future programme connects primary and intermediate school students with role models from the world of work in a fun and inspiring event that broadens students’ horizons about future work possibilities. The volunteer role models talk about their jobs, the career pathway they took, any challenges they faced, and the skills they have developed. Inspiring the Future events are free to organise and run and can be in-person or online.
    Inspiring the Future programme(external link)
  • Gateway enables secondary schools to give senior students access to structured workplace learning integrated with school-based learning. Students receive on the job education in a chosen vocation for 1 to 2 days a week. It is aimed at students in Years 11 to 13.
  • Trades academies are secondary-tertiary programmes that provide senior secondary students (Years 11 to 13) access to a broad range of trades or technology learning opportunities to help keep them engaged in education. Programmes are delivered through partnerships developed between schools and tertiary education organisations. They consist of learning in secondary and tertiary settings and may also include work experience. Information about training available through local trades academies is included below:

Case studies: Education to employment

Fusion Networks and Tāmaki College

IT services company, Fusion Networks, has been running a paid internship programme targeting Māori and Pasifika high school students from low decile areas since 2018.

Fusion initially partnered with Tāmaki College, where 62% of students are Pasifika, 32% Māori, and 1% Pākehā. Their traditional pathways are sports, engineering, or healthcare but few see themselves in technology.

The internship programme was created to build student skills with industry experience, speeding up the process from learning to earning. The programme provides secondary school students from less privileged communities with an opportunity to learn with technology and understand their potential career pathways.

So far, over 40 high school students have participated in the programme with overwhelmingly positive results for both the students and Fusion, including cutting Fusion’s traditional HR costs in half.

For more information see:

Māori and Pasifika in tech: How paid internships work(external link) – NZ Herald

Massey High School Building Academy

Launched in 2012, the Massey building academy provides a pathway for young people to enter the trades. Working under the supervision of registered builders and teachers, the students gain experience in carpentry, plumbing and electrical work, while helping build real homes for the community in partnership with Kāinga Ora.

For more information see:

New homes prove Massey students building cred(external link) – Kāinga Ora

Massey High School Building Academy [PDF, 453KB](external link) – OECD

Patton Engineering and Hastings Boys’ High School

In 2018, Patton Engineering formed a partnership with Hastings Boys’ High School with the aim of training students at grass roots level (ages 15 to 17) by giving them real life exposure to the structural engineering industry and providing them with opportunities and work experience.

This initiative exposes students to the trades and engineering as employment opportunities. With 70% of Hastings Boys’ High School students not attending university, introducing students to the varying trades during their final school years gives them the best chance of ending up in a trade that is of interest to them.

For more information see:

Engineering workforce forging talent through school partnerships(external link) – DEMM

Hastings Boys' Technology - The initiative(external link) – Hastings Boys' High School

SmartNZ’s Secondary School Employer Partnerships (SSEPs)

Currently operating in Waikato and Canterbury, SSEPs are formal relationships between secondary schools and local employers, working to contextualise student learning at Years 9 and 10.

The programme provides a real-world application of the curriculum and exposes students to a wide range of career pathways, both inside and outside the classroom. The programme has been found to have a significant impact on students’ intention to stay in school, attitudes towards subjects, and qualification expectations.

SSEP started in Waikato in 2016. Over 10,000 students have participated from 41 secondary schools, partnering with 250 employers.

SSEP Canterbury was launched in 2021 in collaboration with MPI and focuses on partnering with employers in the food and fibre sector. MPI also funds a SSEP Canterbury Facilitator.

For more information see:

Secondary School Employer Partnerships(external link) - Smart NZ


[1] Tertiary Education Commission (2021) 'Transitions from Secondary School' page 71

[2] The WE3 Continuum and Activities [PDF, 425KB](external link) — D Turner (2020)

[3] The WE3 Continuum and Activities [PDF, 425KB](external link) — D Turner (2020)

Last updated: 07 December 2023