Across sixteen days in February, CEO of The Youth Group Jack Parsons travelled across seven towns and cities, made fifteen speeches, gave eight interviews, and met over five hundred people. Jack set off to New Zealand on a mission, to talk to as many business leaders, young entrepreneurs, and frontline workers as possible. Why? To help enterprises across the country put in place steps to hire, train, and develop young people in New Zealand during an unprecedented youth unemployment crisis, and to meet with the New Zealand government to launch a new nationwide programme in partnership with the Auckland Business Chamber designed to equip businesses in New Zealand to become youth ready. 

The youth unemployment situation in New Zealand began to deteriorate after the 2008 Global Financial Crash, bringing an end to a decade of declining youth unemployment. Government efforts in concert with business began to turn this around in 2012, but despite unemployment across the board going down, youth unemployment is still over 10%, more than double the national average. Māori youth unemployment is over 20%. Meanwhile, the traditional employment landscape for young people is changing at a remarkable pace, the digital skills gap is growing, and young people are continuously unaware of what useful digital skills they have or how to apply them at work. Employers have a vital role to understand, connect, recruit, retain, and develop young people into future players. 

Jack’s itinerary was packed from the start. Within twenty-four hours of arriving, he held a breakfast with over sixty employers to discuss young people and youth unemployment. This was an incredible opportunity to engage with so many influential business leaders at a critical time. During this discussion Jack emphasised the importance of young people to the future of our economy, the widening digital skills gap and the role business leaders have to play in paving a way for young people to build a career in the global employment landscape changing faster than ever before. The following morning, he held another session just like it. 

Over the next week, Jack met with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Loreal New Zealand, and Vittoria Shortt, CEO of ASB Bank, one of the biggest banks in New Zealand, to discuss diversity, well being and young people, before sitting down with the managing director of Microsoft New Zealand to discuss opportunities for young people in New Zealand. This was a fantastic opportunity to hear more about some of what New Zealand’s most influential figures in business are doing to improve the odds for young people. What’s more, Jack had the opportunity to meet with Laura Clarke, the UK High Commissioner of New Zealand!

Jack didn’t just meet with business big shots, he spent time with small business owners to teach them the many rewards of recruiting and retaining young people, after which he met with job center caseworkers to gain a greater understanding of the youth unemployment landscape in New Zealand. Jack also had the amazing opportunity to meet with remarkable young people who had started their own businesses!

Over the course of the trip, Jack recorded a podcast, gave a filmed interview about why you should never leave a young people behind, appeared on Breakfast 1 – one of New Zealand’s biggest talk shows – to discuss the Youth Ready Employer programme, and was interviewed by the New Zealand herald – one of the biggest newspapers in the country – to talk about what The Youth Group has set out to achieve across the Commonwealth. 

Eventually, it was main event time. Following an amazing discussion with Willie Jackson, the Youth Ready Employer programme was officially launched, in collaboration with Willie Jackson and the New Zealand government, marking the launch of The Youth Group in New Zealand, and the first steps in a remarkable partnership and friendship between The Youth Group and New Zealand.