Exposing NZ kids to a world of opportunities


I was recently at a rugby prizegiving for 10 year olds when all the kids in one team were told that they were amazing, gifted and special; that they could all be All Blacks one day. I mean, seriously, I am all for encouragement, but it’s simply not realistic. These boys are more likely to be our next generation of entrepreneurs, multi-media specialists or CEOs. It got me wondering – as parents today, are we all a bit clueless regarding the future careers of our children in this changing world? Furthermore, in New Zealand, our children aspire to be like our sporting heroes, with little knowledge or interest in the business world. This differs significantly from the US where Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page are idolised.

CareersGrowing up, I always knew I would work for myself. Somehow, I had some entrepreneurial spirit. With the rise of the equities market in the eighties, I worked hard during the school holidays to participate in the stock market. Ron Brierley was my idol. I bought shares in the then iconic “Brierleys” and wanted to be the next Ron Brierley. A BCom and some time at Otago University seemed to be the rite of passage, rather than a considered career plan. Even post-sharemarket crash, the market for graduates was strong, and it was uncommon for people to not find the start of a career. I hate to have to use this adage, but “how times have changed!”

So what options are there for our school leavers? They are vast and constantly changing, so how do we as parents keep up to date and informed about what is out there? A starting point is the skills shortage list which gives you an idea of where the shortfalls in industry are across NZ. Currently, Engineering, Biotechnology, Multimedia design, Animation, IT & Healthcare are on that list. I bet you’re thinking “what’s biotechnology?” “What’s multimedia design?” Google it, let your fingers do the walking. Once you are more informed you can then find out what qualifications and experience are needed to gain employment in these areas. And while you’re at it, have a look at

But I am getting ahead of myself here; what is your child interested in at school? Are they interested in Science, Maths, Art, Languages, Wood/Metal Work, Law, IT? Where is he/she showing promise or talent? Who do they want to be when they grow up? I am a believer in “People Inspire, Subjects Don’t”. Use your family, friends and business networks to find people working within these interest areas who your child can “shadow” for a couple of days during the school holidays. This is a great chance for them see what the ‘real world’ is like, what the practicality of their possible career choice will be, and what steps they will have to take to become employable in their chosen profession. If this isn’t an option for you, secondary schools have a STAR programme (Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource) which gives Year 11-13 students a chance to attend tertiary courses, giving them a taste of a subject or job area that interests them. Schools are given a certain amount of funding for this, so the programme and what courses are offered can vary.

There is literally a world of opportunities out there for our kids but they need some knowledge from us and something to aspire to. So get informed and plant the seed of discovery.