SKYCITY Auckland has made a pledge to attract unemployed youth and start them on a satisfying career path.

The entertainment group, which includes two hotels and more than 20 bars and restaurants, has 3500 employees, of which 25 per cent are youth. Over 18 months more than 140 young people, mainly from south and west Auckland, have joined SKYCITY’s pre-employment programme The Journey.

“We are focussing The Journey on being the start of a sustainable career,” says Ruth Smillie, SKYCITY’s Talent Development Manager. “We are not just selling jobs, we are saying ‘here’s a possible career for you and here’s how you can start’.’’

Currently the jobs open to those on the programme are waitering roles in SKYCITY’s restaurants, but the company is broadening the roles to housekeeping, portering and kitchen stewarding.

The Youth Employer Pledge is a proactive stance on Auckland’s youth unemployment problem and I’m seeing a lot of good work happening as a result. Young people are being given the opportunity to understand what an employer is looking for, and as a result they are more employment-ready.

Ruth Smillie
Talent Development Manager, SKYCITY



Learning on the job

SKYCITY has formed partnerships with Ministry for Social Development, Youth Horizons West and Best Pacific Institute of Technology in south Auckland. Every two months they send candidates to SKYCITY’s assessment centre, where they learn about training and job opportunities, undertake group exercises and have one-on-one interviews.

“We are not just looking for skills and experience but young people who have great attitude, have the ability to be a team player and communicate, show a commitment to learning and can maintain good timekeeping,’’ says Ruth.

Successful candidates are invited to the pre-employment training programme, which involves three days in the classroom learning about the practical skills of being a waiter and three days in a restaurant applying these newly-found skills.

Nearly half of the candidates on the training programmes have been offered jobs, and during their first three months at work they are supported by an experienced mentor and receive further training from their team.

SKYCITY is also expanding its employment drive by attending JobFest, and piloting a new youth employment web portal, which connects youth with local job opportunities

Winning over customers and colleagues

Katy-May Apiata



Katy-May Apiata has never been short of exuberance and she’s putting it to good use dealing with customers at SKYCITY Auckland.

Katy-May left Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate in Otara during Year 13, first working as a volunteer for Women’s Refuge before taking a makeup artistry course. After deciding that wasn’t the right career, her Work and Income case manager referred her to SKYCITY’s pre-employment programme, The Journey.

“I hadn’t heard about the programme but I thought ‘I’ll give it a shot’. I thoroughly enjoyed the training.”

She attended the initial one-day assessment and was asked back for six days of training. “I’m very bubbly and I was really excited to be there and have the opportunity. I guess that showed.” The training involved three days in the classroom learning the practical skills of waitressing, followed by three days applying those newly-found skills in Rebo Restaurant.

It’s all about customer service. I never thought I would be working here… Wow!

Katy-May Apiata
The Journey Programme participant, SKYCITY



Onwards and upwards

Katy-May, 21, was one of six successful candidates from her intake, and was offered a role waitressing in the staff cafeteria, where she worked for 11 months. In April 2015 she stepped into a part-time cashier role; now she works full time on the night shift and is loving it.

“When other people are meant to be sleeping, I’m working. But it suits me better. I live in Manurewa and I don’t have a driver’s licence. My partner and mother love me enough to take turns dropping me into work and picking me up.”

Katy-May says the night shift goes quite fast. “There’s always something to do – clipping money together, stocking up the drawer and of course providing customer service.”

What's next for Katy-May

Katy-May is keen to take advantage of the career advancement opportunities that a large company like SKYCITY offers. She is already imagining future milestones: “Hopefully I can look around our department and work my way through other roles. I’ve made the one year mark working here, and now I can look at five years, and then 10 and 15 years.”

*Case study developed 2015.

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