Partners Tackle Youth Unemployment Together
3 March 2014 at 9:41 am
Big business, the Not for Profit sector and government are building game-changing partnerships in a bid to turn around Australia’s alarming levels of youth unemployment.
The sectors are spearheading attempts to address the nation’s rising levels of youth joblessness, recently described by the Brotherhood of St Laurence as “hitting crisis point” and which Mission Australia has warned put Australia on the brink of “a jobless generation”.
In response to the growing issue of youth joblessness, Woolworths Limited and News Corp Australia have joined forces to launch Generation Success, an initiative designed to help get more young people into the workforce and develop their careers. A growing number of other major employers have already thrown their support behind the initiative.
As part of Generation Success, business leaders will meet with Prime Minister Tony Abbott at a roundtable event in April to discuss employing young people and how best to recognise, develop, and reward the life skills and job readiness of young Australians.
In another initiative, work experience placements for nearly 1000 school students have already been pledged by Australian employers as part of the 2014 Work Inspiration campaign.
Launched last year as a collaborative project between the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), NAB and The Smith Family, Work Inspiration is an employer-led campaign aimed at reshaping work experience programs to meet the needs of both businesses and young people.
FYA is also working in partnership with The Beacon Foundation and Social Ventures Australia to develop Beyond the Classroom (BTC), a framework to better prepare young people to transition from education to employment. The BTC framework will be piloted later this year.
Tasmania has the highest youth unemployment levels – up to 21 per cent in the west and northwest areas of the state. Not for Profit training organisation, National Joblink, which is based in Tasmania, is delivering the new federally-funded Work for Real scheme, an innovative work experience program designed to help young unemployed Tasmanians find work.
About 40 young people are expected to take part in the Work for Real scheme, which involves four weeks of intensive training and prepares job seekers for paid work.
As previously reported in Pro Bono Australia News, the Brotherhood has also launched a new campaign, My Chance, Our Future, which aims to highlight youth unemployment so Australians can start tackling the crisis together. As part of the campaign’s launch, the Brotherhood released the Australian Youth Unemployment 2014: Snapshot, a series of maps indicating the level of youth unemployment in different states and cities, and a new monthly publication – the Youth Unemployment Monitor (the Monitor) – to provide a regular source of current information and policy analysis.
Work Inspiration Campaign
The Work Inspiration campaign has been highly successful in the UK and guides employers through the process of developing a work experience program that suits their organisation, while providing a more relevant experience for students.
Since the campaign was established in Australia, the founding partners have been joined by companies such as McDonalds, Woolworths, Yamaha Motor Australia, and Pimco, with placements for close to 1,000 students already pledged for 2014.
FYA CEO Jan Owen said that despite the current premium placed on skills and workplace know-how, many young people are not given the opportunities to gain those skills.
She said a major barrier for young people entering the labour market is a mismatch between the skills employers are seeking and those young people receive through their formal education.
Owen also commended Woolworths and News Corp Australia for initiating the Generation Success initiative, and the other organisations who have signed up, for their commitment to providing opportunities for young people. She said it was heartening to see employers taking a more active approach to upskilling young people.
“The key to narrowing the gap between employers’ needs and young people’s skills lies in connecting the two as often and early as possible,” Owen said. “Studies have shown that young people who can recall four or more career events or contacts during school are five times more likely to be employed or in education.”
Generation Success brings many of the country’s biggest employers together, including Leighton Holdings, NAB, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Toll Group, Spotless, Telstra and Qantas, which together employ more than 460,000 Australians.
Woolworths CEO Grant O’Brien said it was critical for Woolworths, and most big employers, to ensure there is a pipeline of young talent into the future.
“At a time when Australia faces significant economic headwinds as we move to a genuinely global marketplace, employment and job creation will be a growing challenge,” O’Brien said. “We need to get the right policy settings in place to stimulate youth employment, and employers are part of that conversation.
“That’s why a business-led initiative like Generation Success is so needed, and it’s really heartening to see so many of Australia’s companies eager to help the next generation of Australians.
“It isn’t government that creates jobs — it’s businesses. Generation Success is a very positive thing. We are for jobs,” he said. “I have no doubt that many more employers will want to have their say and they are all welcome to join us.”
News Corp Australia’s CEO Julian Clarke said the benefits of having a job went beyond just having a pay packet at the end of the week. “It is about financial security, life-long learning, self-esteem and making a contribution to the community,” he said.
“The employment challenge is not lost on our young people. The Mission Australia Youth Survey – the biggest annual poll of young people – reveals our kids and grandkids are really worried about their chances of getting a job.” (The 2013 survey of over 14,400 people aged between 15 and 19, revealed that one in four young Australians feared that they wouldn’t have access to sufficient training and jobs in their local community when they finished high school.)
“We recognise that getting a start in the workforce is critical for millions of Australians – which is why we wholeheartedly support Generation Success,” Clarke said.
Work for Real Scheme
The federally-funded Work for Real scheme will run in the greater Launceston area until June 2014. Launching the scheme, Assistant Minister for Employment Luke Hartsuyker said the initiative showed enormous promise.
"For me, the best things about Work for Real are that it’s practical, that it’s primarily aimed at people aged 16 to 22, and that it follows a logical and thorough process,” he said.
"The programme doesn’t merely place a job seeker in a business straight off, unprepared, for a week of work experience. It involves first giving participants one week of intensive job-seeking support, followed by a week of training to help them become work-ready.
"After their week spent in the workplace, job seekers then undergo a period of evaluation and review—encouraging them to reflect on what they’ve learned and to take that knowledge into a paid job,” Hartsuyker said.
The Assistant Minister said the Government was paying special attention to Tasmania because it lagged behind other states in certain economic indicators and deserved a better future.
"It’s simply unacceptable that Tasmania has the highest unemployment rate, the lowest workforce participation rate and lowest average weekly earnings in Australia,” he said.
Beyond the Classroom
BTC, to be piloted later this year, integrates careers learning into schools from Year 7 onwards. It is co-designed and connected with local and national industry, integrating hands on work exposure and experience as a component of the approach.
Beacon Foundation Chief Executive Scott Harris stressed the need for a holistic approach to careers education.
“The issue is that, in Australia, the education system and the world of work are still relatively siloed,” Harris said. “We need a framework that brings all stakeholders in education and employment together to enhance young people’s productivity, performance and economic outlook when leaving school.”