The number of students registering to find work in Nelson this summer is up nearly 50 per cent, and a better regional strategy is needed to make use of their talents, says Student Job Search chief executive Paul Kennedy.
New enrolments are up from 211 last summer to 308 this year.
The number of summer jobs listed in the Nelson region had doubled, but it was from a low base of 151 to 317, he said.
He questioned whether there was a strategy where local government or business could work to retain local talent.
Many students who left their hometown to go to university did not return because the region did not have a strategy to bring them back, he said.
"Students tell us they'd love to come back to live," said Mr Kennedy.
The region could develop a strategy to offer work for students, which would have benefits for both, he said.
SJS surveys found that 50 per cent never wanted to leave but never saw an opportunity to stay, even though opportunities were there and employers needed skills, he said.
"If you have young talent going to university, there is a real risk they are not going to come back."
Graduates planning to do their OE had said they would much rather return home from university for one or two years to work and save money.
"I don't see a lot of strategy to bring them back," he said. "One of the things we'd like to see is somebody at local government level encouraging business to develop that."
That strategy could include a business take on a student during university holidays and using their skills, such as an accountancy firm employing a student to do accounts administration, or a business using a student to build a basic company website.
"Do that over three or four years and the employer gets a look at them.
"Put them in a junior role, and it's inexpensive. They may want to employ them when they complete their studies.
"There's also a social and community aspect to helping young people develop their skills."
Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency chief executive Bill Findlater said he was not aware of such a strategy.
"Most student work is done on an ad hoc basis but there would be no reason why we could not sit down and have some sort of formal structure."
Some businesses, such as accountancy firms, might shut down over Christmas, and businesses were not carrying extra staff, he said.
"It's a case of door knocking and people will help where they can," he said.
The 317 jobs that had been registered with SBS for Nelson were a mix of farming, hospitality, tourism, retail, IT, and advertising, and either fixed-term or part-time, he said.
Students needed to realise the importance of having job experience, said Mr Kennedy.
Most students thought study was most important, while employers rated reliability, work ethic and communication as most important.
"The message is experience matters," said Mr Kennedy.
Throughout the year 308 NMIT students enrolled with SJS and 116 were placed in jobs. Now there are 25 vacancies on the SJS site and another 19 vacancies pending an employer's decision.
Saniti Student association president Scott Tambisari said many NMIT students had good links with local employers.
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