Youth Projects Recognised for Cutting Jobless Rate
9 June 2017 at 4:16 pm
A not-for-profit that provides health, outreach, employment, education and training services to young people experiencing disadvantage, unemployment, homelessness, alcohol and other drug issues has been awarded for cutting the jobless rate.
Melbourne youth service Youth Projects was presented with the Steve Lawrence Innovation Award at The CoAct National Conference in Brisbane.
The award, named in memory of the founding father of Job Futures now known as CoAct, recognises an organisation that has developed an innovative approach to improving employment opportunities, social inclusion and/or community strength.
In the last 12 months Youth Projects has helped more than 250 young people into their first secure job and/or engaged them back into skills training and studies – of this group, only 1 per cent had finished year 12, 20 per cent were already homeless and 50 per cent had mental health illnesses.
Youth Projects chair Melanie Raymond told Pro Bono News it was important not to give up on unemployed youth.
“Despite a hostile job market for unemployed youth, we must not give up on unemployed youth because a job is life changing for them,” Raymond said.
“I think too often people give up on young people and they can be warehoused and be seen as time consuming and difficult. If you put in the groundwork, you’ll find that there is a really strong supply of eager and willing young people who want to work.
“I think the key is working with kindness and support not punishment and ridicule. There are so many negative messages towards unemployed youth these days when in fact nothing could be further from the truth in our experience.
“If young people were dole bludgers and didn’t want to work, we simply could not have won these awards, it would not be possible if that was true.”
Raymond said listening was at the heart of what they do.
“For many young school leavers they don’t feel that anyone has ever listened to them or tried to find out what their goals are, so the combination of listening and building trust is how you get to building motivation and confidence in young people,” she said.
“If you don’t do that you are probably not going to be successful in other ways.
“And building on their strengths rather than their experience, which is they have always been told what they have failed at.”
Raymond said the biggest risk to young people today was being locked into long-term unemployment and poverty.
“This raises the likelihood that they will never reach their potential, and remain in a cycle of insecure, poorly paid work,” she said.
“We know that young people are the worst hit by an economic downturn and take the longest to recover in terms of opportunities. That is very relevant to the fairly stagnant economy in Melbourne’s northwest, which has among the highest rates of teen unemployment in the country. In some areas it is 33 per cent, there are very few job vacancies and employers can be reluctant to give young people a chance.
“So breaking down the barriers between employers and the local youth candidates is one of the most important parts of our success.
“We continue to help young people build the core employability skills employers are looking for, that are lifelong and transferable.”
In particular, Youth Projects received the award for their Youth Space initiative, which was co-designed by young people and was aimed at helping the youth of Glenroy and North-West Melbourne.
The not for profit also received three further outstanding achievement awards for contributions to changing the lives of underprivileged youths and helping transition to work for at risk youths in areas of high youth jobless rates, mainly in Sunbury, Craigieburn and Glenroy.
Meanwhile, the Canberra-based arm of MRI E-cyle Solutions, which provides a range of e-waste recycling services, across four sites in Vic, Qld, NSW and the ACT, was named CoAct Employer of the Year.
Over the last seven years, the business has employed 12 to 15 people with a disability every year, building their business model and practices around the employment of people with a disability, and the long-term unemployed.
CoAct CEO, Matt Little, said it was wonderful to see the level of commitment to helping Australia’s most disadvantaged demonstrated by all CoAct’s partners.
“We’re entering a period in which the customer service provided by those operating in the employment and disability services sector will come under increasing scrutiny,” Little said.
“That’s why it is so pleasing to be able to showcase true, best-practice approaches to engaging with communities from within our network.”
Raymond said they were “hard won gains” but it was fantastic to get recognition.
“I think to be recognised for the hard yards that we’re doing is very, very welcome for a team that is incredible dedicated,” she said.
“None of the circumstances in which we work, make what we do easy.
“This has come through 30 years of being embedded in our local community and having the trust of local employers to be recognised, our outfit in the heart of Glenroy is very significant.
“You don’t often hear of awards being won out in the depressed northern suburbs of Melbourne. We are glad to contribute that to our local community.”