READER REPORT:

The job market is cruel to graduates

ZAC EISLEY
Last updated 16:03 09/05/2017
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"We study for years, get a degree, graduate, then the job hunt begins - and sometimes never ends."

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When my father was 14 he walked into a store down the street, asked if they had work, and was offered his first job. Times have definitely changed since then.

At 15, after a year of applying for work and being told I was too young, I got a job in the fast food industry. At 16 I moved out of home, and at 18 I enrolled in a photography diploma at a New Zealand tertiary institute. I had studied and done well in media studies at high school, and knew this was the path for me.

I worked hard, gaining two diplomas, and spent my student life living in dingy, rotten flats, working 20 hours a week in a fast food restaurant and struggling to get by with the measly $176 a week loan from StudyLink.

In New Zealand, arts degrees are often criticised for being “worthless”, so I studied for a further three years to gain business and marketing qualifications to back me up. A $50,000 loan, one internship and countless one-off jobs later and I still couldn't get work in the industry I studied for as I was "inexperienced" or "too young".

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The thing is, this isn't just my experience - it’s the same for 20-somethings across the country.

We study for four years, get a degree or relevant qualification, graduate, and the job hunt begins - and sometimes never ends. The job market in New Zealand is far too difficult for young people.

Want to work in the trades? You'll need a car, your own gear, a current first aid certificate, a current Site Safe, a full licence, a pre-trade qualification, three years' experience, and an apprenticeship that you can only get by working for several years with the same company.

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Want to work in a storeroom? You'll need a full licence, several years' experience and a forklift licence.

Want to work in retail? You'll need a retail qualification, several years' experience, and sometimes even a licence.

Want to work in hospitality? You'll need your LCQ qualification, a barista certificate, a hospitality certificate, several years' experience, possibly your Duty Manager's license, and definitely a car.

Want to work in marketing or business? You'll need a degree or two, three to four years' experience, references, a portfolio of your work, a full licence, and to be willing to accept minimum wage as your starting rate.

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It's unreasonable to expect those who've just finished studying to have the money and time to complete all these tasks; “entry-level” positions should not need three years’ experience. There are hundreds of applicants for every position advertised, and the demands are too high for recent graduates.

I can’t count on both hands the number of people I know of my age who have had to move back home after university because they can’t afford to live. I also can’t count how many people have had to return to workplaces such as fast food restaurants, unable to find work in their field because they lack experience; how many are living paycheck to paycheck, struggling under the weight of a $50,000 loan.  

I understand why, in this year alone, 10 people I know have moved abroad to find work. I understand why youth unemployment in New Zealand is so high.

Things aren’t necessarily better once you do find a job. I’ve managed to break into the photography industry now, but at almost every company I have suffered harassment, faced disrespect from employers and struggled to get the hours I need to survive.

Perhaps the money that goes on bosses’ six-figure salaries would be better spent on hiring recent graduates and paying them a decent wage. Unfortunately, it seems New Zealand employers wouldn’t agree.


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