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Aug 05, 2015

Brett O'Riley: Developing our future business people

For Auckland's economy to grow at an even higher rate, we need to develop our young people, writes Brett O'Riley, chief executive of Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development.

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The continued importance of diversifying New Zealand's economy has been underscored by recent fluctuations in global commodity prices.

One of the Auckland Plan's seven goals is to develop an economy that delivers opportunity and prosperity for Auckland and New Zealand. Auckland's economy is performing well at present with growth exceeding 3 per cent. The fastest growing sector is ICT, along with other advanced industries. We want Auckland's economy to grow at an even higher rate.

To achieve that we need to develop more young entrepreneurs and business people to capitalise on opportunities in these high growth sectors. What is particularly exciting is that these sectors are people-intensive, offer higher paid jobs, and the opportunity to reduce the high number of our young Aucklanders who are out of work, education or training.

One important means of developing our future business leaders, entrepreneurs and workforce is the Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme (YES), the flagship programme of the Young Enterprise Trust which has been running in New Zealand schools since 1981.

Many of New Zealand's best business leaders, such as Rod Drury, 'cut their teeth' in YES teams, and the quality of this year's Auckland cohort suggests we have another generation of potential high achievers.

YES is delivered across Auckland by Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development (ATEED), the region's economic growth agency, on behalf of the Young Enterprise Trust. We have set out a goal, in partnership with Auckland Council's Local Boards, of getting YES into every one of our 120 secondary schools, to give as many year 12 and 13 students as possible the opportunity to set up and run their own business for a year.

At the beginning of each school year, YES students create their own unique product or service and take it to market, emulating the process that any start up business must go through on the pathway to success.

The students are provided with coaching and mentoring from business people throughout the year. They also take part in a range of regional events, ranging from Dragon's Den-style challenges through to trade fairs like the one being held at the ASB Show Grounds on 8 August from 10am-4pm.

We are expecting approximately 100 YES companies to take part in the trade fair, where they will be demonstrating and selling their innovative products which range from recycled furniture and robot making classes to boxed herbal teas and yogurt made from almond milk.

Through these hands-on, practical experiences, students are challenged to go beyond the boundaries that would normally be set in the classroom, developing the business and soft skills that will stand them, and Auckland, in good stead for years to come.

Some teams and their members also get an opportunity to compete on the national and global stage, and schools like Henderson High School, St Cuthbert's College and Pakuranga College have had success in recent years.

I hope you are able to attend the YES Trade Fair this Saturday and show your support for Auckland's young entrepreneurs and future business leaders as they develop the skills needed to continue Auckland's economic growth. Please also encourage your local secondary school to participate in YES and where possible provide them with the mentoring support to enable even more young Aucklanders to participate.

Brett O'Riley is Chief Executive, Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development.

(Written by Brett O'Reiley, originally published by NZ Herald)