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Generation’s Success Depends on More Than Jobs

5 May 2014 at 11:29 am
Staff Reporter
We’ve had some great conversations on tackling youth unemployment in Australia, but it doesn’t stop there, writes Dr Jan Owen, CEO, Foundation for Young Australians.

Staff Reporter | 5 May 2014 at 11:29 am


Generation’s Success Depends on More Than Jobs
5 May 2014 at 11:29 am

We’ve had some great conversations on tackling youth unemployment in Australia, but it doesn’t stop there, writes Dr Jan Owen, CEO, Foundation for Young Australians.

Australian employers are zooming in on youth unemployment and the ‘skills mismatch’ in a way that is crucial and long overdue.

Recent roundtables have seen leading CEOs having much needed conversations with young people about their aspirations and the challenges they face in making the transition from school to work.

Those conversations are far from over and the barriers to successful transition are far from addressed; those conversations will be meaningless if we don’t act.

The youth unemployment rate, at over 12 per cent, is double the unemployment rate for adults. The mismatch between employers’ needs and young people’s skills is a persistent and growing problem in both directions; Australia has the third highest proportion of overqualified workers and the tenth highest proportion of underqualified workers in the OECD. This misalignment has significant implications for the efficiency of both our education system and our labour market.

The challenges young people face in the transition to work are not simple. The world of work is changing. Rapid technological advances, globalisation and constantly shifting labour market dynamics mean that young people require new skills, a different mindset and adaptability if they’re to succeed.

On the supply side, the International Labour Office has reported three practical reasons why young people experience disadvantage in the labour market. First, they lack work experience.

Second, they lack knowledge about how to navigate the complexity of career options and search for jobs. Third, they have fewer contacts to help them navigate towards work.

To facilitate that exposure and those networks we need to connect young people with the world of work as early and as often as possible. Young people are telling us that they want and need this.

Corinda, 17, from NSW, says of her newly started career journey, “If there is one thing I could change I wish I had started on this journey in younger years and have had more experiences of work through school.”

Miquaelia, also 17, from Bairnsdale, is holding a community open event to connect employers and young people: “It’s hard for young people to find a job, particularly one they like. That’s why so many young people leave and move to the city. I want local shops and businesses to open their doors and show young people what they do.”

It is heartening to see employers stepping up to provide the experience, knowledge and networks that young people are asking for, and need.

Yet we need to delve deeper. We can’t focus purely on the provision of opportunities for young people to participate in the workforce because we don’t know what the workforce of the future is going to look like.

It has been predicted that young people will have between 15 and 20 jobs that will likely span several “careers” as the type of work on offer changes. Even today, many of the most sought after jobs and on-the-rise sectors did not exist 10 years ago.

We cannot know exactly what tomorrow’s labour market will look like, but we can still equip young people to navigate it.

For this we need a holistic approach.

In approach that will facilitate the development of a high degree of technical knowledge coupled with a strong set of transferable enterprise skills such as creativity, collaboration, innovation, communication and digital literacy.

Young people need an integrated education and career pathway that doesn’t leave them in limbo when transitioning from one to the other and that will equip them to adapt to whatever tomorrow’s labour market throws at them.

The first step is taking our outdated and broken careers education system and transforming it into a framework that prepares young people not just for work, but for life beyond the classroom.

The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), the Beacon Foundation and Social Ventures Australia have developed a model of careers learning that starts early, brings together educators, employers, parents and young people, and will break down the siloes that prevent the education and employment sectors from forming the seamless journey that they should.

Beyond the Classroom provides a work exposure continuum that regularly connects young people with the world of work throughout high school.

It will see teachers and employers co-designing and co-delivering a curriculum that is aligned with industry needs while keeping the development of the enterprise skills that promote long-term job success at the centre.

Young Australians are not just the workers of the future; they are the employers, the leaders, the changemakers, the people who will tackle the unprecedented social, economic and cultural challenges that lie ahead.

We will not prepare them for this simply by making sure there are enough jobs to step into.

The challenge is broader: to equip young people to lead a society in which we sustain our standard of living, enhance our quality of life, protect our fragile environment, contribute to the global family and become a lighthouse nation to the world.

About the Author: Dr Jan Owen AM has been CEO of FYA since 2010. Prior to that, from 2002, she was Executive Director of Social Ventures Australia. In 1993, Jan established the CREATE Foundation, a consumer body for young people in foster care. In 2000 she was awarded membership of the Order of Australia for services to children and young people and in 2012 she was named ‘Woman of Influence’ by the Australian Financial Review and Westpac Group.


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