No young New Zealander should be allowed to leave school to nothing, the Salvation Army says.
They should all have the expectation of going to a job, or to further education or training, it says in a reported entitled What Next?
The report, which looks at the employment needs of 15 to 24-year-olds, lists three challenges New Zealand faces in its labour markets over the next decade.
One is the persistent number of 75,000 workers under 25 who are unemployed, unengaged and often with few, if any, marketable skills.
Another is a looming labour shortage caused partly by an ageing population.
The third is how to manage immigration to ensure the country has sufficient skills to grow without exacerbating congestion and housing shortages.
The report says persistent young unemployment is caused not by recent migrants taking jobs, but by government failure.
It suggests that the government and some industries see immigration as an easy-fix to skill shortages.
It argues that New Zealand needs to provide resources to ensure all school leavers go into work or further training at least until they reach 20.
Report author Alan Johnson says industries relying on migrant labour to fill shortages should be required to plan to include more young New Zealanders in their sector.
They should also have to demonstrate a tangible commitment to this before migration policies are relaxed to meet labour needs.
"Young people doing nothing is a future New Zealanders surely cannot casually accept," Mr Johnson said.
The report recommends five specific responses to the three challenges it has identified:
* Addressing educational inequality within the school system.
* Connecting school to work.
* More apprenticeships and younger apprentices.
* Broad public debate about immigration policy.
* Workforce plans that included recruiting and training young New Zealanders to fill skills needs.