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Shaping the Future of the Profession

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the brain drain is well underway, meaning the war for talent will not be ending anytime soon. 

But there is some good news - An untapped talent pool.  

There were more than 390,000 students enrolled at a New Zealand tertiary institution in 2021, and approximately over 43,000 students graduate from New Zealand Universities each year (with 90% at bachelor’s degree level or above). Is your company ‘youth ready’ to take young talent on board via internship or a graduate program? 

Why should you consider recruiting graduates or interns? 

Why not? You are tapping into a pool of students or young professionals who:  

  • Are equipped with the latest academic thinking 
  • Are technologically and digitally fluent 
  • Have an innovative mindset with curiosity, experimentation, and resilience 
  • Can offer an extra set of valuable hands to help you meet short-term project deadlines 
  • Bring into your workplace a diverse set of fresh perspectives and ideas 
  • Possess great ability to adapt, influence and engage. 

These young talents belong to a generation surrounded by disruption! They’ve adapted to not being able to learn in schools, to building relationships online, to finding new ways to do things while being stuck at home. Aotearoa’s readily available rangatahi are living in an era that is reforming the future of work, and they are The Future of Work! 

Finding good hires can be challenging, and it is getting worse in the current candidate short market. With this being the case, what could be better than having today’s interns or graduates becoming your future hires? Internship is beneficial to both sides! 

What makes a good internship/ graduate programme? 

Put yourself in their shoes and ask what you would be looking for in an internship role for yourself

Young talents are eager to put themselves in a real-life situation to gain professional experience, form relationships with people working in the industry, and meet potential future employers. Internship is a good way for students, graduates, and young talent to reconfirm their career goals and pathways.  

It’s the quality of the work 

Interns value meaningful project work where they can acquire practical work skills. Plan your job duties and tasks to meet their learning and development needs. Making coffee, picking up parcels, or printing documents are generally not classified as meaningful tasks, although many may expect to be completing these administrative tasks. It is important that the job description clearly defines their roles and daily responsibilities. 

If you’re thinking of developing an internship programme, plan ahead. It’s important to decide which tasks can be handed off with proper guidance, and in which order the tasks should be allocated to the interns. Tasks could be broken down into three tiers: (1) can be accomplished by someone with no additional training, (2) carry more importance and allow the interns to demonstrate their abilities, (3) a limited version of a full-fledged employees’ tasks. 

Proper guidance, training, or mentorship must be provided 

Interns who are teamed up with a mentor within your company are more likely to deliver in their role and learn about the organisation’s culture. It is important that the intern’s mentor has sufficient knowledge of their career field and strong interpersonal skills, as mentorship takes time and effort. The mentors are an organisation’s representative. Ultimately, a strong mentor will help the mentee to identify career goals, as well as providing coaching on daily tasks. 

Make sure you set up support systems and training for interns, to assist them in becoming work ready. This could include induction, trial sessions, a buddy system, or dedicated resources.  

Interns learn from your feedback 

It is a good idea to schedule frequent casual check-ins to provide the interns with honest encouragement and constructive feedback. It is important that you and the interns take some time to define the purpose and goals of the internship from the onset, as this creates common expectations and provides a measure of how the intern is progressing. 

One method you could employ when giving feedback is the ‘sandwich method.’ This involves giving praise for what has been done right, then adding some constructive feedback, followed by positive feedback. This is just one approach, you may wish to use a different method that aligns more with your leadership style. 

Your organisation’s culture plays a role 

When you decide to hire a person, regardless of if whether it’s a full-time role or an internship, you should not necessarily look for the ‘best’ candidate, but for the candidate who is the ‘best fit’ for your organisation, and vice versa. Interns value a supportive, inclusive and open workplace environment. Make sure you set up expectations early, clearly communicate with each other, and provide support throughout their internship. Your interns should feel included in the wider team and have plenty of opportunities to establish and maintain firm connections with them.  

Compensation matters 

Paid internships provide higher quality experiences for interns and for organisations alike. Paid interns feel valued and advocate for themselves more effectively. Compensation is not necessarily all monetary; there are perks and opportunities that are just as valuable if not more. For example, you could provide them with learning and development opportunities that are readily available within your organisation, bring them along to a conference, or coordinate travel and accommodation. 

What are other organisations doing out there? 

  • One third of Countdown employees are 25 or younger. Countdown proactively attracts young talent by attending local school and university career expos. They have a fully subscribed graduate programme and a range of apprenticeships and development opportunities. Countdown is also working with YESS (Youth Empowerment and Support Services) to provide support to young people from complex backgrounds. 

  • Downer has deliberately targeted young Māori in its recruitment and retention plans. Whakatipu Tētēkura is a Downer programme designed for Māori school leavers at risk of becoming NEETs (not in education, employment or training). 

  • Citycare recognised a need to expand its talent pool and pipeline by attracting young people, Māori, Pasifika and women to join its workforce. They have adopted a key strategy based around the concepts of Engage – Educate – Attract. 

  • Non-profit TupuToa has developed and successfully delivered an innovative internship programme creating pathways for Māori and Pacific students into professional careers. In their programme to date, more than 450 interns have been placed in corporate and public-sector roles, with more than 80 percent securing graduate jobs after their internships. 

Get your business youth ready 

  • Shift your mindset - look for potential, not experience. 
  • Design an attraction and recruitment approach that targets students and graduate. 
  • Establish a relationship with education institutions and young talent networks. 
  • Establish support and training systems for young talent. 
  • Support Māori and Pasifika networks. 

Find young employees, interns and apprenticeships 

Funding and subsidies 

More support and advice 

HRNZ's Commitment  

HRNZ is committed to helping shape the future of the HR profession, which means making sure that students, graduates and young talent have access to entry-level HR roles and other relevant opportunities is really important to us. We aspire to become a reliable hub to connect champion students, graduates and young professionals to great employers out there. The market is tight, and we hope to see an increase in the openings of internship and entry-level opportunities from you! 


Download Future of the Profession PDF