Creating change to address Youth Unemployment

Ange Connor

How refreshing it was to read Ricky Muir’s (Senator for Victoria) Walk a mile in unemployed shoes (The Courier March 3rd 2015 an edited version of the foreword of the Youth Unemployment Monitor), where Ricky shared his unemployment experiences and talked about his non-traditional entry to politics. Ricky hasn’t been to University; his career has been built by working his way up through a series of manual occupations and surviving periods of unemployment. Congratulations to Ricky for openly sharing his unemployment experiences, particularly as a youth and for demonstrating that there are ways to build a successful career other than by going to University.

If we as a community and a nation have any hope of addressing youth unemployment we need to tackle the problem collectively while changing the way we think and our opinions on the transition for youth from secondary school to the workforce. University isn’t for everyone and our youth not only need to know that it’s ok not to go to University, they need to be educated on what alternative paths are available to help them transition to the workforce and build a successful career they are passionate about.

First and foremost we need to teach “employability skills” to youth and this needs to be taught at home, developed through involvement in extra- curricular activities, taught throughout Secondary School and reinforced throughout University studies. By employability skills, I’m talking about: communication skills, interpersonal skills, personal presentation, self -motivation, responsibility and the list goes on. We need to teach them how to hold a conversation with people from all walks of life (from all levels of an organisation), how to demonstrate their motivation and drive and passion. We need to arm today’s youth with these kinds of skills otherwise no matter what path they take from secondary school to the workforce they are going to struggle without these fundamentals. I see plenty of people who finish their uni degree (or multiple degrees) and expect that because they have a piece of paper they’ll walk straight in to their chosen career. The reality is, in many professions regardless of how many pieces of paper you have, without employability skills it’s going to be an uphill battle to secure a job.

Our Secondary Schools need to get savvy and be up to speed on what’s happening in the business world. That way they’ll be able to guide and inform students on industry and job trends. For example, I have been told many many times that manufacturing is dead and there is no career in manufacturing. Manufacturing is NOT dead. It’s simply changing, just like pretty much every other industry. There are many successful manufacturing companies right here on our own back door who are innovating and leading the way in their market. The way we manufacture and the skills someone needs for a career in manufacturing is what has changed and will continue to change; and yes technology has replaced some positions but manufacturing is not dead. Our secondary schools need to know what is happening in industry so they can educate and inform students accordingly on what the future of work looks like.

We need to completely overhaul our apprenticeship and traineeship system. The wage structure for apprentices and trainees needs to change, I don’t know what the answer is but under the current structure undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship isn’t a financially viable option for many youth based on today’s cost of living. We need to get innovative and look at the apprenticeships and traineeships on offer and do they align with the jobs of the future. One of challenges with the current structure occurs when the host employer has a downturn in work and has to put the apprentice or trainee off. If a new host employer cannot be sourced, the apprentice or trainee is lost to unemployment and the training they’ve undertaken wasted. Could the way forward be industry based apprenticeships and traineeships where apprentices and trainees are shared around between employers in a particular industry? Maybe we just need to change the way we think about apprenticeships and traineeships; a bit like the way we have seen a shift towards fixed term or short term contracts and engaging contractors aligned to specific projects and tenders.

Dropout rates for apprentices and trainees are of huge concern. Transitioning from school to the workforce as an apprentice or trainee is challenging and ensuring the right support mechanisms are in place to help that apprentice/trainee succeed is crucial. After all, as business owners we have business mentors and/or coaches, as elite athletes we have sports coaches, when we are looking to develop our careers we engage a careers coach. What coaching or mentoring do apprentices and trainees have?

Technology is revolutionizing the world of work and many entry level positions that existed previously, ideal jobs for youth to use as an entrée into the workforce are being replaced by technology. Think self-serve checkouts at the supermarket as one example. Again we need to innovate and look for new jobs, jobs of the future, new and different opportunities that are suited to being filled by youth where they can build and develop their skills as they transition in to the workforce. We all have an obligation to identify these opportunities within our workplaces.

Let’s hope Ricky’s walk in unemployed youths shoes can drive and influence the change our communities need to address youth unemployment and support the development of skills and qualifications of the next generation. At a local level, we need to ask ourselves what impact can I or my workplace have on youth unemployment.

Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts, opinions, experiences and ideas on youth unemployment.

The opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

About The Author
Ange Connor

Ange is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource (HR) and careers agencies. Ange is an ‘ideas’ person and a ‘big picture’ thinker. She loves to challenge the status quo – in fact, that’s how Inspire HQ began.

Ange has supported hundreds of businesses across Ballarat and regional Victoria to attract, engage, motivate, develop and retain their greatest assets; their people. Ange’s unyielding passion and invaluable knowledge of the recruitment and HR industry ensures she delivers the best solutions for her clients.

Ange has held various board positions and regularly volunteers her time to share her industry and market knowledge. She was recently a Councillor for the Victoria and Tasmania region of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) of Australia and New Zealand, and she is a current Board Director of the Committee for Ballarat.

For more useful information, follow Ange on LinkedIn.

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  • Great article. I didn’t know much about Ricky’s background, so it’s great to get to know him a little better and his plight for youth unemployment is to be commended.

    I remember seeing Ricky being absolutely annihilated in a TV interview, and I was disgusted at the behaviour and the way the media portrayed this honest man, giving it a go in a world of suits and big guns with fancy titles and qualifications. They embarrassed him and made a mockery of his beliefs and inexperience with the media. They really just showed how AWFUL they are as an industry.

    And I also agree with much of what you have said here. It’s almost like there is a sense of shame if you don’t go to university these days. And students need to know that finishing school or university is not the END, it’s only the beginning of your career! And there are some students who just aren’t cut out for the academic world, and really, should be encouraged to get into the workforce and start contributing to their livelihood much earlier. There is no shame in leaving school at 16….IF you are able to find work and start your journey into adulthood. I had a conversation with my brother last year, a teacher, discussing “real life learning”. Things that your parents may not be equipped to teach you, but aren’t on the curriculum either. Saving money, budgeting, networking, customer service and so on. These are some of the critical things that could also lead into employability skills. Basics in life to be happy and prosperous.

    I don’t know the answers either, but I hope we can all work together to make a difference 🙂

    • Well said Louise, there should be more of a focus on teaching the crucial life skills. Ange


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