Participants of the Youth Employment Scheme trainings conducted by the Niue Chamber of Commerce. Photo credit: Niue Chamber of Commerce

The Youth Employment Scheme, or YES, in Niue, is helping young people transition from high school to life in the workforce.

The YES programme is vital in providing an opportunity for senior high school students to gain work experience, skills and basic understanding of the expectations of the workforce, appreciation of the realities of hard work, value to the work and work ethics and professionalism.

The YES programme was funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at USD $20,000, and the Government of Niue. It was managed and administered by the

Niue Chamber of Commerce (NCOC).

Catherine Etuata Papani, Niue Chamber of Commerce, Chief Executive Officer: “The programme takes students through tasks and teachings involved in creating micro businesses as groups based on a theme. The theme is based on priority work areas that Niue as a country is focussed on or key issues that both the Government and Private Sector may be focussed on as priority areas to address. For the past two years, the theme has been on ‘Sustainable Niue’, given the importance of ensuring we take steps now not to leave anyone behind”.  

Niue is one of the smallest countries in the world by both land area and population.  It is also very remote, making transport a key constraint. It is a coral limestone plateau that is the peak of an ancient volcano with high rainfall and little arable land. It has also been subject to periodic destruction from powerful cyclones. It’s very small scale means it supports mostly very small businesses, and its restricted market limits the numbers of even these small businesses which can viably compete in the same market niche. The low population and remoteness also result in a high risk of loss of key personnel. 

With such limited human and land resources and exposure to extreme weather, Niue has some unique challenges.

In order to encourage entrepreneurship, tourism and career development, the NCOC recognised the need to ensure the youth of Niue were provided with opportunities to look further afield than just going to school to secure a Government job. NCOC runs both a Young Entrepreneurs educational programme with the local High School for Year 10 students and a Junior Entrepreneurs programme with the Niue Primary School for Years 5 and 6 students. An average of 100+ students are involved each year in these programmes, written and delivered by Chamber staff.  

“We are very pleased to partner with the Niue Chamber of Commerce in this initiative as an opportunity to expose students to the working environment whilst complementing entrepreneurship education. Furthermore, it provided an avenue to reduce gender disparities in the Niue labour force and create an inclusive environment for education and employment opportunities with female participants wanting to work in areas predominantly for male workers – building, construction, Department of Utilities and Customs,” said Christina Mualia, UNDP Assistant Resident Representative, Governance and Poverty Reduction Unit, under which this project was implemented.  

Labour and skills shortages are a major constraint on business development in Niue, and appear as persistent concerns in business opinion surveys run by the Chamber. Several respondents to the survey also raised local labour market development as a priority. In particular, better linkages of the private sector development to education was mentioned, including identifying businesses that need young workers, and encouraging trades and IT skills.

The Chamber has a role in promoting linkages between the education sector and industry needs. Specifically, it provides a Young Entrepreneurship Programme (YEP) and a Youth Employment Scheme (YES) aimed at assisting labour market matching through skills training and practical work experience (though temporary holiday employment). The target was to assist 40 students per year.

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