Lack of employer access to mid-skills talent is a pain point experienced by businesses worldwide. Jeffery Wallace, president and CEO of LeadersUp, a nonprofit created by Starbucks Co. in 2013 to address high youth unemployment in U.S. cities, has been invited to share the nonprofit's successful soft skills and career-building strategies with his contemporaries in Auckland, New Zealand, at the "future ready. tomorrow's workforce. ready now." summit on July 26 at the ANZ Viaduct Events Centre.
Wallace will deliver the keynote address on the topic, "Leading Employer-led Solutions in USA and Auckland," to an assembly of employers, educators and workforce development professionals who, like Wallace, are called upon by key stakeholders to drive solutions to engage disconnected young adults and close talent gaps negatively impacting businesses. Wallace's address at 9:30 a.m. will be followed by a Q&A. Then, later in the day, he will lead the breakout session "Maximizing Diversity: USA, UK, Christchurch, Auckland, Your Business" from 1:15 to 2:30 p.m.
Wallace will discuss LeadersUp's practical employer-led programs that are making a real difference in the United States. He will also share initiatives aimed at optimizing education and training resources to fill talent needs. Prior to speaking at the summit, Wallace will meet with local organizations and officials, including the general manager of economic development for Auckland, to share how to apply best practices that LeadersUp has learned from building career pathways for more than 2,000 U.S. youth.
Overall in New Zealand, there are an estimated 90,000 youth ages 15–24 who are Not in Education, Employment or Training, referred to locally as NEETs. New Zealand's NEETs and the young adults LeadersUp primarily serves, described as Opportunity Youth, share similar attributes and challenges. For instance, NEETs are from a mix of diverse cultures and mostly come from low-income communities where their social status and earnings potential is impacted by where they grew up, the quality of education, and job training opportunities. As in the U.S., employers in New Zealand say they are willing to hire for attitude over pedigree, and provide training. But many youth lack the soft skills to meet the basic work-ready requirements.
"As in the U.S., the shifting racial and ethnic demographics in New Zealand is fueling the urgency around engaging disconnected youth in order for these businesses to survive and thrive," Wallace said. "This necessary event serves as a strong reminder of the interconnectedness of our economies. From Auckland to America, the need to ensure the next generation of talent is connected to viable career pathways that benefit individuals, communities, and local economies is a global one."