With the latest budget release focused on tackling youth unemployment in Australia, the issue is finally being put under the microscope. But funding is just the start, there needs to be a focus on linking schools, universities and employers together. Another question that looms is how many affected young people are actually attempting to find work?
Here are 10 key strategies to reduce youth unemployment:
1. Encourage Entrepreneurship
It’s no secret that entrepreneurs are pivotal to creating wealth and driving economic growth, innovation and employment. With the latest federal budget announcing that it will support small businesses, there has never been more support for entrepreneurs. Teaching children the skills to start, manage and operate their own businesses would be the first step in creating a more independent and driven generation of youth in Australia.
2. Reassessing the Value of Unpaid Internships
While internships can help lay the foundation for a career, unpaid placements can also leave interns embittered towards the concept of work. Interns must receive high standards of training and supervision, and organisations should offer some form of minimal pay to engage young adults.
3. Reevaluating the distribution of welfare
Care must be taken to avoid promotion of welfare as a viable alternative to work. Youth allowances can set a dangerous precedent by encouraging the view that welfare is a necessity to fund their lifestyle. There needs to be a review of the length of time that young job seekers can claim unemployment benefits, or at least ensure that they are exploring all avenues for work.
4. All secondary schools should have active partnerships with employers
By developing partnerships between schools and employers, schools will be able to align their curriculum and the skills of students with employer needs.
5. Earlier Career Guidance
Career advisers at schools should be meeting students earlier on in their schooling to tap into their skills and help steer them on a career path. Students need to be provided with a sense of direction regarding career pathways and be made aware of the vast opportunities out there for them.
6. A new standard for work experience
There needs to be an increase in work experience opportunities for students across a variety of industries. Students should engage in a number of different workplace environments to get a real feel of what the workforce will be like. This will broaden their minds on the opportunities available and help provide them with a well-rounded sense of direction for their career path.
7. Modernising apprenticeships
It’s important that there is a continued increase in new and modern apprenticeship opportunities, particularly for those furthest from the labor market. As part of the process for developing a new skilled workforce in Australia, there needs to be an emphasis on developing the skills and knowledge of young Australians.
8. Providing fair opportunities for disadvantaged youth
The Greens have recently announced a newly funded local infrastructure program to create around 15,000 new high quality jobs and training opportunities for youth in disadvantaged areas. The money is being spent on local councils with high unemployment to help create jobs and build community infrastructure. Initiatives such as this need to continue to drive business growth and create more opportunities for youth in disadvantaged areas.
9. Increased uptake of work-related learning and qualifications in the senior phase of school
Even before entering an apprenticeship, schools need to take responsibility for developing the skills students need to enter the workforce. It’s all about making the transition of the world of school to the world of work easier.
10. A national levy scheme for skill shortage areas
Similar to the UK, Australia should be shifting towards a levy scheme to recruit and train young people in skills shortage areas. The construction industry is one area which has started seeing success, achieving consistent, ongoing investment in training young entrants and reaping the benefits of having a consistently skilled workforce.
The bottom line is that by having a full assessment of internships, education and welfare, the federal government may well be able to reduce Australia’s high levels of youth unemployment and identify the key areas for reform. Otherwise, an entire generation may be lost to a lack of direct action.
Criterion are bringing in Margaret Kidd from the Department of Employment for the latest Youth Employment Pathways conference, taking place in Melbourne in December. The conference will put youth employment pathways in Australia under a microscope like never before, and with so many changes happening in this area, there is no time like the present to crunch some numbers, create a strategy and become more proactive in combating youth employment.