It may sound like hyperbole but the words ‘epidemic’, ‘tragedy’ and ‘crisis’ are being used to describe the current state of youth joblessness.
Worldwide, there are more than 357 million 15–24-year-olds who are without work and not in education or training, according to the World Economic Forum – and that number is increasing.
Although Australia has largely been cushioned from the worst effects of the GFC, young people have been hit the hardest, with more than 17 per cent unemployed last year, compared with a national rate that hovers around the 5 per cent mark.
Compared with the 1980s when 65 per cent could be sure of a full-time salary, today only 43.6 per cent of young adults between 20 and 24 years enjoy that luxury. For many, it’s not out of choice. When questioned for an ABS survey, 27 per cent of 15–24-year-olds said they wanted to work more hours.
- The apprenticeship system was severely criticised by a government-appointed panel in 2011 when it became apparent that less than half of the 425,000 young people employed as apprentices or trainees completed their professional qualifications.
- A salary that was below the minimum wage, which in some cases saw apprentices taking home less than $300 a week, was a contributing factor in driving young people to seek better paid, if more unstable, jobs.
- The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) has been campaigning to raise the pay of first-year apprentices to 50-60 per cent of the adult trades’ rate.
The retail sector
- Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, says he’s worried that with the industry going through tumultuous change there’s a need for different skill sets, but at the same time there’s a lack of young people being trained and developed.
- “Twenty years ago we only had to train people how to meet and greet but now we need people who can operate cloud-based platforms and use iPads to manage point-of- sale systems and inventories etc. They have to understand budgeting, profit and loss and how the store fits into a chain.”
- Zimmerman acknowledges that the problem for retailers is that during a slump they can’t afford to have a load of full-timers in their stores and training casuals that are in the role while they study at university – and who may or may not take on a job in retail after they leave – isn’t seen as economically sound.
School leavers being bypassed
- Global human resources consulting company Adecco reported that 66 per cent of HR managers said that they don’t think recent college graduates are ready for the workplace.
- Employers report “a lack of ‘soft’ skills, such as the ability to engage with people through good communication, to listen and tell stories,” adding that problem-solving, analytical skills and languages are also in short supply among young adults.
- The response of some businesses is to bypass entry-level job seekers.
- ManpowerGroup in Australia has highlighted the need for improved career- guidance services for young people, a more positive image for vocational education and directing young people towards training for the skilled trade positions that are hard to fill.
- “In today’s talent-short market, it is unlikely companies will find the perfect candidate, so employers should be looking to take on candidates who are a ‘teachable fit’, and investing in training and support to get them over the line,” says Lincoln Crawley of ManpowerGroup.
- ManpowerGroup walks the walk as well by offering Vocational Education Traineeships that provide an entry-level job while working towards nationally recognised qualifications.
- In Victoria, for example, in conjunction with the state government, the group runs an Upskilled program in light- industrial and white-collar workplaces. More than 200 workers, 80 per cent of whom are young people, have gained accreditation to date.
While it remains to be seen whether more businesses take on that responsibility, FYA evidence indicates that young people see more to life than fulfilling economic need.