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Skills Auckland

Youth Employability

What is the Youth Employability Programme (YEP)?

The Youth Employability Programme is a cross sector, business-led initiative, designed to respond to business and industry concerns that young people may not be developing the soft skills needed to succeed in the workplace. The programme provides an explicit sequence of learning activities to build the competencies business leaders have said they want to see young people display, and a process to assess and record them.


What are employability skills, and why do we need them?

Employability is about being prepared for the working world with skills like communication and resilience. “Employability refers to a set of achievements, skills, understandings and personal attributes that make a person more likely to gain employment, remain in employment and be successful in their chosen occupations; which benefit themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy” (York 2006). 

Employers report that young people are not work ready and many young people agree. Young people need more preparation for the reality of work and a better understanding of the opportunities and obligations it brings.

YEP Employability Skills have been developed in consultation with government, education, business, and industry groups to ensure they are the right competencies for young people to be successful when they enter the workplace.

The Youth Employability Programme essentially connects youth to business and organisations by finding ways young people can contribute productively and integrating them into the world of work. 

  • There are 47,400 people in Auckland who are officially unemployed (24,400 males & 23,000 females)
  • 16,800 people in Auckland (3% underemployment rate) are underemployed and are actively seeking more hours (7,000 males & 9,800 females) 
  • Unemployment rate by ethnicity: NZ European 3.4%, Maori 11.9%, Pasifika 9.9%, Asian 6%. 

Click on thumbnail below to play video










Employers involved in the Active Tairawhiti Business hub cross-sector initiative talk about why they are developing the soft skills for young adults to succeed in the workplace. Local business leaders want to help young people with the Youth Employability Programme, so they can achieve the ‘Licence to Work’ certificate on completion of at least 80 hours of work experience with a local business
















Approved Employability Skills:

  1. Positive attitude
  2. Communication
  3. Teamwork
  4. Self-management
  5. Willingness to learn
  6. Thinking skills(Problem-solving and decision-making)
  7. Resilience


How the Youth Employability Programme helps young adults?

  1. It lifts young people’s awareness of the value and knowledge of the behaviours they have already developed in relation to the employability skills. 
  2. Helps them make sense of differences in understanding or of perceptions they may have in relation to others. Develops motivation and aspiration to work intentionally on growing their employability skills. 
  3. Provides an opportunity to hone their skills during the hours of learning and of voluntary work. 
  4. Gives them feedback from their tutor, their volunteer supervisor and an employer 
  5. When the programme is completed students attain the Licence to Work Achievement Certificate and a Portfolio that details their performance. 


Evidence of effectiveness

A recently-published external evaluation of YEP by Evaluation Associates Ltd reveals the power of the programme to provide direct links between business, secondary schools/training facilities and youth; and to build young people’s skills in the specific employability competencies that employers say are most needed.

The evaluation also shows that employers, schools and students are positive about the programme, and would endorse it to others.

Tracking whether young people were more likely to get and keep jobs after completing the programme is a complex task, due to the timeframes and privacy issues involved. We are working on providing data for the 2017 cohort, but meanwhile, the interviews highlighted a number of examples of students who had secured offers of part-time/full time employment as a direct result of the work experience component of YEP. 

The evaluation has already informed a complete review of programme resources and training delivery. A user guide handbook and a principles guide have been developed in liaison with Cognition Education. These resources provide detailed information for schools and other organisations wanting to implement YEP, so they know in advance what will be required to ensure the programme is successful.

Read the evaluation report 















On completion of the YEP programme participants have:

  • evidence of their employability skills and work readiness from assessments
  • participated in 18 interactive employability teaching and learning sessions
  • participated in at least 20 hours of community service work with a recognised organisation
  • participated in at least 80 hours of work experience in local companies
  • a certificate of completion with a Licence to Work certificate to show prospective employers


Who can get involved? 

YEP: Licence to Work is designed for all young people, however, it is of particular benefit to:

  • young people transitioning directly into the workforce from school or training
  • young people who are on vocational pathways: transitioning into training or trade apprenticeships
  • young people who are not in education, employment, or training
  • individuals returning to the workforce.

YEP can be delivered by any organisation working with young people – for example, secondary schools, tertiary institutions, youth service providers, iwi or community organisations.  The programme works best when several organisations in a community work together with business, to collaborate on training and mentoring and to find work placements for students.  

Applications have now closed for 2017, but send in your interest for 2018, and we can organise training and advice to start building a foundation for successful employability transition in your area.


YEP resources

YEP Student booklets 

YEP Employer and
Parent Guides

YEP Facilitator Guides













How it works

To apply for the 2018 programme in your area contact us by October 2017, so that COMET Auckland can give access to programme materials and provide appropriate training and support

  • We can help you facilitate the Youth Employability Programme which has been working with partners to be part of the Employment Skills Framework from the Ministry of Education. 
  • YEP is a step-by-step process with ready-made guides for facilitators and students to successfully implement the process and outline the resources on the eight YEP principles.
  • For more details ring COMET Auckland Skills Manager - Shirley Johnson. For original set-up enquiries ring COMET Auckland Project Support - Jane Burnett.

The following case studies were created by COMET Auckland with our partner schools using the Youth Employability Programme:

Southern Cross Campus 

Download & print pdf here


Sir Edmund Hilary College 

Download & print pdf here


Coastal Taranaki School
with Taranaki Futures

Download & print pdf here













Youth Employability Programme highlights:

2014 2015 2016 - Jan 2016 - Now 2017
 Focus groups with
 young people and 
 3 Auckland schools
 and one youth service 
 participating in first 
 year trial  project
 9 Auckland schools
 participating, and 
 first region outside
 Auckland participating
 - Taranaki
 122 students graduate
 with a certificate of 
 achievement, a further
 18 with a certificate of
 participation. A total 
 70% graduation rate

 16 Auckland schools

 6 regions outside 
 Auckland participating 

 Detailed handbook, 
 facilitator guide and
 training manual


How does YEP link to the national Employability Skills Framework?

A cross-sector group of government and business has developed a nationally endorsed Employability Skills Framework, which is being launched in early 2017. The YEP programme has informed and is informed by this work. The nine skills used in YEP in 2015 and 2016 have been reduced to seven for 2017, in alignment with the NZ framework. There have also been some changes in the behavioural descriptors. These changes have been incorporated into the YEP handbook.

The Employment Skills Framework provides a layered structure indicating what kind of employability programmes are recommended and how they interrelate and work together with the rest of the education curriculum. The framework is the first step, defining clear, high standards which will be achieved by all students. The curriculum is then aligned to the standards, and students are assessed against the standards.















 Who is behind YEP?

The programme was developed by COMET Auckland and its partner organisations, including Cognition Education, for use in Auckland schools and youth service organisations. 

It is governed by a steering group comprised of partners from different sectors: business partners – Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) Northern, Greater East Tamaki Business Association (GETBA), Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development Limited (ATEED), SkyCity Auckland Ltd; government – Ministry of Education (MOE), Te Puni Kōkiri (TPK), CareersNZ, New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), Ministry of Social Development (MSD); careers organisations – Career Development Association of NZ (CDNAZ); and recruitment companies. COMET Auckland chairs the group.

The YEP: Licence to Work builds on a 2013 study of youth employability in Auckland by COMET Auckland and the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, which identified the lack of employability and work readiness skills as one of the main reasons for youth unemployment.

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The findings from the focus group  were in a report and in a video. Click on video link image above

In December 2015 EMA interviewed 1000 businesses to find what was required from employees. The number one priority was ‘workplace fit’ - the ability to get on with other people. Number two was soft skills such as communication, teamwork and problem-solving. Relevant qualifications only rated number four.

2017 will be our third year of trialling the programme, and YEP is now offered through several regional and community sites. 


Research links:


Media links: