Working Capital focuses on the skills, employment and training issues crucial to the future prosperity of the Wellington region.
Developed by Victoria University of Wellington, Grow Wellington and the Wellington Regional Strategy, it is a partnership between tertiary education, local government, and businesses with the aim of attracting, growing and retaining talent that is vital for emerging work opportunities in the region.
This cross-sector approach seeks to demonstrate that far from dying, Wellington is changing and already New Zealand’s strongest example of a region creating new economic value based on knowledge, creativity and talent.
Wellington’s knowledge economy an incubator for graduate employability
Wellington and graduates working in the city are well-positioned to navigate technology-driven upheavals, according to the latest report from the Working Capital project.
It Takes a City to Raise a Graduate is based on nearly 90 interviews conducted by students from the School of Management with Wellington managers, human resource specialists and recent graduates at a cross-section of businesses and public sector and not-for-profit organisations.
Wellington’s place-based advantage was a key theme: the capital is New Zealand’s strongest knowledge economy, with the youngest average population and highest level of qualifications. It has nearly 50 percent of workers in knowledge-based roles, compared with a national average of 35 percent.
The report highlights Wellington’s compact size and its benefits for networking and communication, including between employers and tertiary institutions such as Victoria University of Wellington.
Why having a job is the best way for graduates to get a job
Dr Richard Norman has also written a comment piece for The Spinoff based on survey material collected for It Takes a City to Raise a Graduate, where Wellington employers highlight the importance of work experience – of any kind – when choosing from similarly qualified job candidates.
With increasing competition, students must differentiate themselves not by grades alone, but by more majors, postgraduate studies, extracurricular activities, internships and/or volunteer work.
A sociology theory about “individualisation among equals” emerged in conversations students had with employers, many of whom are looking for graduates possessing the “triple threat”, described by the managing director of a large consulting firm as “good grades, part-time job of some sort, and something extracurricular which looks good”.
Employers particularly valued two forms of work experience. One involved the development of soft skills of reliability and the ability to resolve conflicts. The other was technically focused ‘hard’ skills, developed often through internships and placements. Technology organisations in particular want these.
For some, the exact nature of the work experience is unimportant, with a human resources manager from a large corporation saying: “I don’t care what you’ve done from a work perspective but I want you to have worked in part-time roles … that you understand the dynamic of working.”
Among interviewees were recent graduates who expressed their surprise about the importance placed on the value of generic soft skills compared with technical skills. As several commented, it was their cultural and organisational fit that secured their position rather than their hard skill level, which employers saw as teachable.