School leavers with ambition in demand

School leavers with ambition in demand

Some employers value attitude over education, writes Sylvia Pennington (Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney - Business News)

School’s out soon for the current crop of year 12s. In times gone by, that meant a batch of fresh workers swapping slate and satchel for their first full-time pay packets in entry-level jobs. 

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Less so these days when the majority of young folk don’t transition directly from school to the workforce.  More than 80 per cent of Australians aged 15 to 19 were engaged in study, according to research last year by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and employers increasingly seek staff with higher education, training or experience.

So are many small businesses planning to take on a school leaver this year, or are opportunities for keen-but-green young workers scarcer than hen’s teeth? 

Sydney IT services provider Hotline IT is still in the market for them.  The family-owned business turns over $3.5 million a year and employs a team of 16, including two workers who joined fresh from the classroom as junior IT support staff a couple of years ago. 

Co-owner Michelle Joosse is looking for two more juniors to start in the new year and has advertised the opportunity at local schools and on social media. 

Youngsters start on around $35,000 a year and learn the ropes setting up computers for small business clients before progressing to the helpdesk. 

‘‘The people we employ have been tinkering with their own computers at home, building them and pulling them apart – that’s the sort of thing we’re looking at, people who are really passionate about IT,’’ Joosse says. 

While it’s important to provide direction and set expectations early on, she believes there’s a major upside to hiring school leavers. 

‘‘I think the fact that they are so fresh means they haven’t really developed any bad habits from previous jobs,’’ Joosse says. ‘‘We’ll get people come in for a level two or level three [role] and they think they know everything and they will then start tinkering with things they shouldn’t be doing, whereas these guys recognise that they don’t have the experience and so they’ll check before they go ahead and do something ... 

‘‘Also, they come in with this enthusiasm, they’re so enthusiastic for the opportunity. They’re finally out in the real world after all these years of study and they’re eager to learn something.’’ 

Certus Legal Group co-founder Darryl Richards is also a fan of the young and mouldable. The Queensland practice turns over $2 million to $3 million a year and employs two school-based trainees, one of whom will be offered a permanent position in the new year. 

‘‘We take someone with the right attitude over experience so we can train them how to do things and they progress on,’’ Richards says. 

Some of the duties are mundane and monotonous – think scanning the mail and keeping the kitchen tidy – but it’s a good start for someone with the right attitude, he believes. 

While school leavers may lack experience, business owners can still gauge the calibre of Class of ’17 candidates by their CVs, according to recruitment veteran Sarina Russo, managing director of Sarina Russo Job Access. 

Consistent grades suggest an ability to apply oneself while extracurricular activities show someone can prioritise and multi-task, Russo says. 

Employers should seek candidates who are punctual, polite and neatly attired and who’ve researched the business and can talk about their aspirations, she says.

Photo - Jonathan Carroll

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