Disrupt Unemployment Cycle With Practical Skills
8 March 2019 at 5:36 pm
High-value industries demand an equipped workforce which we simply don’t have, writes social entrepreneur Jak Hardy, reflecting on his experience of working with young people on the Sunshine Coast.
Every day, I work with inspiring geniuses and equally inspiring misfits. With social innovators leading change, and pioneers taking a risk in enterprise. Confidence and community pride are booming.
And I’ve witnessed time and again the power of work in affording dignity, creating wealth, and breaking the generational curse of welfare dependency. It’s the bridge between benefitting and blessing, taking and giving.
Yet, the common thread between these young people is that they aren’t finding meaningful work in the region they love. Unless they create work, many of them fail to find a job at all. And a recent report from the Brotherhood of Saint Laurence paints that same stark picture.
Part of this is a dynamic economic landscape. On the coast, we’re seeing firsthand the effect of digital disruption, as the manufacturing, maintenance and wholesale trade sectors shrink. But we’re also seeing growth in construction, thanks to increased local development and federal investment; as well as in health, social assistance, and education – the people sector.
Overall, however, there’s a decrease in both skilled and unskilled youth employment. Why? Because these high-value industries demand an equipped workforce which we simply don’t have.
We don’t teach the basics of economics and competitive advantage. Civics, practical business, finance and digital skills are subject options, not graduate outcomes. The opportunity to hone leadership and citizenship is afforded only to the gifted or already-engaged.
These aren’t ignorable “soft” skills. These are life skills and vocational imperatives. Without them, the emerging workforce finds itself incapable, unequipped and unemployable.
In the community services sector, I’ve hired Certificate III graduates over postgraduate students, because their practical business skills exceeded that of most politicians. That’s a low bar, I’ll admit – just look at Queensland’s bloating debt and public service! And as a consultant, I’ve found myself tackling basic interpersonal skills with clients and classes, instead of the complex management problems I’ve been trained to address.
This is the real skills shortage. And as we wrestle with youth unemployment, again, how about we deal with youth employability in the long-term, before we find ourselves scrambling to find jobs for another unprepared workforce.
About the author: Jak Hardy is a Sunshine Coast social entrepreneur and consultant, working in the international development sector. He is the 2017 Sunshine Coast Young Citizen of the Year.