Graduates not ready for work say small business owners

08 Nov 2016

- 44 per cent do not believe the education system gives students the skills they need to work in their business

- 57 per cent say students do not have the skills required to run their own business

- Just 16 per cent say the education system equips students to be entrepreneurs or innovators


Most of New Zealand’s tertiary students will finish exams this week, but the education system has more work to do to prepare them for the job market according to a new survey of small business owners.

The latest MYOB Business Monitor survey of more than 1,000 small-to-medium businesses reveals that 44 per cent do not believe that the education system gives students the skills they need to work in their business, verse just 18 per cent who say it does and 37 per cent who are neutral or said they did not know.

MYOB New Zealand Head of SME Ingrid Cronin-Knight says these figures are hugely concerning.

“The education system needs to ensure that it is providing students with the skills they need to succeed in their chosen career. This survey should serve as a wakeup call.

“Many businesses report they are facing skill shortages. Having people come through the education system that aren’t work ready only makes that situation worse.

“It also tightens the job market, with many students potentially struggling to secure a job in their first year out of study, meaning they are competing with progressive waves of graduates,” says Ms Cronin-Knight.

Within the survey, the construction and trades sector are the most concerned about the unpreparedness of students, with more than half (56 per cent) saying they did not believe that students left study with the necessary skills. The retail and hospitality sector however, were the most confident in graduate’s abilities, with 37 per cent reporting students were aptly skilled.

Concerns about entrepreneurialism and innovation

When asked if the education system gives students the skills they need to be entrepreneurs and innovators, almost half of all businesses surveyed believed it fails to do so, verse just 16 per cent that think it does.

“This is disappointing. The students of today will be the innovators of tomorrow,” says Ms Cronin-Knight.

“We need a strong education system that teaches students about the theory of business management, provides them with hands-on experience, as well as developing the critical faculties that drive innovation and entrepreneurialism.

“New Zealand is making real progress here with the likes of Lightning Lab, Icehouse, the Ministry of Awesome and other entrepreneurial programmes at many of the country’s tertiary institutions. However, we need to look at the whole system to see if there is something more we could be doing.”

Ms Cronin Knight says MYOB works closely with various education institutions around the country to help the next generation of students develop the skills they need to be successful.

“We are involved with several activities through various tertiary institutions to help give students an understanding of the business world. This includes supporting the National IT Challenge, Brand Challenge marketing competition, running hackathons, graduate programmes and sponsoring several awards.”

Several tertiary institutions around the country are also doing their part to enhance entrepreneurial opportunities for students. The University of Canterbury’s Centre for Entrepreneurship opened in February and is one such innovative outlet.

Centre Manager Michelle Panzer says it is focused on building students employability, innovation skills and entrepreneurship.

“Ever since the earthquakes, the University has looked to provide courses that ensure our students are ready to succeed in the business world,” says Ms Panzer.

“Within the Centre for Entrepreneurship we now have an incubator programme to help students get their own business ideas off the ground.

“In 2017, we will introduce a new ‘Enterprise in Practice’ course to give students the chance to apply their academic skills and knowledge to managing a practical project for a new or existing for-profit business or social enterprise venture.

In addition, the University offers the Summer Start-Up Scholarship. It provides a successful student with a $5000 grant to work on a business idea of their own.

“There are several opportunities out there for students who are looking to get extra experience in business. All tertiary institutions around New Zealand have programmes to help students learn the practical realities of commercial life.”

Business ownership

Only nine per cent of SME operators surveyed said they believed students entered the workforce with the skills required to run their own business, while 57 per cent disagreed.

Businesses based in the Hawkes Bay (73 per cent) and Wellington (61 per cent) were particularly skeptical, with a large majority reporting they did not think students had what it took to become successful business owners.

Within the industries, 65 per cent of construction and trade SMEs felt the same way.

“While these statistics do come as a shock, there’s plenty of ways to fix the problem,” says Ms Cronin-Knight.

“There are many great examples of young people starting up their own businesses, so it’s not all doom and gloom. Take James Koo for example, he started his own university printing business and it has become so successful it has recently moved into larger premises.”

Mr Koo co-founded Auckland based Niesh last year with the ambition to make life easier for students by offering them a free printing service.

“At Niesh, each student gets 100 free pages of printing per month, funded with a banner advertisement along the bottom of each page,” explains Mr Koo.

Mr Koo says it was the plight of fellow students that got the innovation ball rolling.

“One of our co-founders had limited funds in the lead up to exams and was caught between the decision to print past papers for his study, or buy food. He chose to feed himself but later wondered if he could have achieved better marks in his exams if he’d opted for the printing.”

Since its launch, Niesh has grown rapidly, from a small operation borrowing the space of a friend’s shop, to a fully-fledged business occupying its own premises and there are ambitions to grow it even larger.

“We think there are three key elements that make for successful students: being financially stable, achieving academic excellence and building solid connections. We would like to spend time focusing on the latter two here at Niesh,” says Mr Koo.

As a student, Mr Koo studies a double degree in commerce and science at the University of Auckland, he believes the New Zealand education has some way to go before it can adequately prepare students for the world of work.

“For specialised occupations such as lawyers, doctors, accountants, university study is essential. But for the likes of business students, I’m not sure the fit is quite right.

“At university a lot of what you learn is theory based with limited opportunities for hands-on education. Being in business myself, I’ve learned that often the theories you’re taught can’t be implemented straight away anyway. Really, the best way to learn is from experience.”

For MYOB product information, research results, business tips, discussions, client service and more visit the MYOB website, or its blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube sites.



For further comment or other information please contact:

MYOB NZ Communications and Public Affairs Manager Conor Roberts

M: 021 124 6004 / E:

The Agency Communications Limited Director Gerard Blank

P: 03 341 5841 / M: 0275 243 629 / E:

About MYOB

MYOB (ASX:MYO) is a leading cloud based business management solutions provider. It makes business life easier for approximately 1.2 million businesses across Australia and New Zealand by simplifying accounting, payroll, tax, practice management, CRM, websites, job costing, inventory and more. MYOB provides ongoing support via many client service channels including a network of over 40,000 accountants, bookkeepers and other consultants. It is committed to ongoing innovation, particularly in cloud computing solutions, and in 2015 was awarded the BRW award for the most innovative large company for 500+ employees and placed 2nd in BRW’s Most Innovative Companies Award list across all categories nationally.  For more information, visit or follow @MYOB on Twitter.

About the MYOB Business Monitor

The MYOB Business Monitor is a national survey of 1,000+ New Zealand small and medium business owners and managers, from sole traders to mid-sized companies, representing the major industry sectors. It has run since 2009, commissioned to independent market research firm Colmar Brunton. This most recent survey ran in July/August 2016. The Monitor researches business performance and attitudes in areas such as profitability, cash flow, pipeline, technology usage and the government. The weighting of respondents by both geographical location and sector is based on overall market proportions as established by Statistics New Zealand and is drawn from an independent survey group, which includes both MYOB clients and non-clients.