The Salvation Army is urging the Government to ensure no one leaves school without the promise of higher education, a job or hope.
In its new report titled What Next?, the Salvation Army says a "set of expectations for individuals" needs to be fully resourced to guarantee all school-leavers have something to get into until they're 20.
"There's 75,000 young people sitting around doing nothing, the second thing is that we have an aging workforce - 900 people each week hit 65, and that's just going to continue for the next 15 years," Salvation Army chief policy analyst Alan Johnson told Paul Henry.
The report says immigration is seen as an easy fix for skill shortages, and the current outlook for young Kiwis "is a future New Zealanders surely cannot casually accept". It says it should prioritise upskilling young New Zealanders, rather than importing labour.
"Continuing to import labour as an easy, short-term solution avoids the broader society-wide issues of what to do about the skills deficit of hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders and of catering for the needs of migrants," Mr Johnson says.
"As a country, we need to have a rational and open debate around the role of immigration in New Zealand's future."
But the Salvation Army says recent migrants can't be blamed for persistent youth unemployment - it's the Government's fault.
"The responsibility for this should not rest with people who have come here looking to build better lives for themselves and their families," Mr Johnson says.
"It's the fault of the education system as well because we turn out tens of thousands of young people every year who are not functionally literate. You have to ask how on earth can they spend 10 years at school and not have basic numeracy and literacy skills that would equip them for the labour market."
He says there should be more accountability with tertiary education providers, and schools be developing vocational trade training early on in a student's career.
The Sallies are now calling on the Government to require New Zealand industries to "demonstrate a tangible commitment" to hiring more young Kiwis. Employers would have to meet the requirements before migration policies would be relaxed to meet staff shortages.
The onus is now educators, businesses and the Government to provide employment and training to young New Zealanders, particularly to those from poorer areas, the group says.
The full What Next? report can be viewed on the Salvation Army website.