COMET Auckland gets young stars workplace-ready

Young male student smiles at the camera

Find out how COMET Auckland is getting young people ready to work.

Ask an employer what they’d like in a new hire and most will tell you the same story – they want someone suitably skilled for the job, and someone who knows what it’s like to work. Unfortunately, students often imagine employers to be more interested in what’s on their NCEA score sheet than how they’d behave on the job.

COMET Auckland are disrupting students’ beliefs about working life, teaming up with schools and employers to deliver the Youth Employability Programme (YEP).

Students walk out of YEP with employer contacts, 80 hours of work experience, 20 hours of community service and a Licence to Work, equipping them with a suite of employability skills to handle the ups and downs of working life.

Scenarios help students build critical thinking skills

Students combine experience in the workplace with classroom exercises to develop thinking and problem-solving skills, and polish their interactions with others.

Shirley Johnson of COMET says the scenarios help students negotiate in groups, and learn to break big problems into many possible solutions.

“Critical thinking skills are key to the workplace and our data shows us that they are the hardest skills for young people to develop. Students are given the scenarios to work on, and they really like it because we use scenarios that come up in their workplaces and will be very familiar to them. You can see them nodding their heads.”

Students learn to manage their emotions

Shirley says that some students can be too passive at work, with negative results.

"These students don’t have the experience or confidence to respond in an assertive way to issues or opportunities because they see it as inappropriate, rude or not their place. When young people feel unable to express their feelings or opinions they are much more likely to react badly when things go wrong."

YEP exercises trigger awareness with students about their behaviour and how they react to pressure or conflict, so they can learn to be assertive and manage their emotions better.

Students watch and discuss YouTube videos that mimic workplace conflict and demonstrate helpful and unhelpful approaches to it. Shirley believes these clips, combined with conversations that challenge ideas about what's right and wrong, can give students good insight into how to handle any issues that might arise on the job.

"We develop their emotional language. With a higher level of self-awareness they can make better decisions."

Employers impressed by confident students

Employers in the YEP programme have been impressed by the students’ focus, according to Shirley.

"One of our employers said the students have built awareness of the skills that they need at work and it is so much easier to get them motivated to want to build these skills. Up until now, students have said that they didn’t even know they needed to build these skillsets."

Feedback given to COMET from employers shows that students are often confident and contribute more as they have learned the unspoken rules of the workplace. This confidence is reaping rewards for some students taking part in the programme.

As one YEP participant said, "I got offered employment – they liked my attitude. This programme helped my attitude a lot! I wasn’t like this before doing the programme. I wasn’t that keen on being careful. Changed my life a bit actually."

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Updated 21 Jun 2019