Extracurricular activities get learners ready for work

Two young people playing golf

Find out how extracurricular activities develop skills sought after by employers.

School isn’t all about academic performance. The reality is that extracurricular activities aren’t just hobbies – they develop important skills that will make learners sought-after employees and more successful at school. They also help learners make better choices of NCEA subjects and careers. 

Here’s why taking up activities outside of their school work can benefit learners now and in the future.

Developing sought-after employability skills

Alongside knowledge and education, employers are looking for team members who bring employability skills like time management, the ability to commit to a long-term project, self-management and teamwork.

By their very nature, extracurricular activities – a role in the school play, joining a sports team, taking up an instrument – encourage these employability skills and demonstrate them to potential employers.

Choice and self-direction for learners

Extracurricular activities are optional. When learners make the choice to take part in something, they often find the experience more meaningful, take more ownership and are more successful over all. Learners will be motivated to do well, and will work hard to overcome challenges like low confidence, lack of motivation, split priorities or team conflicts.

An insight into adulthood

Many extracurricular activities include spending time away from home or school, managing new situations and facing real-life consequences. For example, to take a trip to compete in a sports tournament or choir competition, learners will need to demonstrate skills like time and self-management and teamwork. This offers an insight into adulthood, where decisions really matter. If a learner doesn’t turn up on time, hasn’t practised or hasn’t packed an important item, this lets the team down and may cost them the win. With support from their peers and teachers, learners will rise to the occasion, develop real skills and the confidence to take on bigger challenges.

Developing empathy

On their sports team or in their orchestra might be learners from very different cultural, ethnic, socioeconomic or religious backgrounds. Being able to work alongside and get to know these people helps learners develop empathy and understanding, equipping them for life in the workforce.

More informed career choices

Extracurricular activities help learners more clearly understand what different careers might be like, and what they might be best suited to. For example, learners who love English and want to work in journalism can gain a real insight into the career by helping to produce the school newspaper. Similarly, a positive experience on the debating team might tell them that a role with public speaking could suit them, while excelling under the pressure of a Mathletics tournament might encourage them to seek out careers where they will be working under pressure and to short deadlines.

Find out more


  • Education Review, 'Extracurricular Activities: Do they Add Value?', 9 February 2015, (educationreview.co.nz).
  • The Behavioural Insights Team, 'Moments of Choice Final Report', 25 August 2016, (www.bi.team).

Updated 16 Dec 2019