News and published articles in 2017 and 2016

  • Be part of the solution to youth unemployment

    Wednesday, 16 August, 2017


    Youth employment was the focus at the August Hunter Economic breakfast of the Hunter Research Foundation (HRF) Centre.

    The Australian Government’s Department of Employment was HRF Centre’s corporate breakfast partner and assisted in lining up the keynote speaker, Maggie Hill from the Foundation for Young Australians.

    Hill’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion exploring solutions to a local challenge - the Hunter’s youth unemployment rate for June was 10.8 per cent, double our overall rate of 5.1 per cent.

    The panel included the Department of Employment’s Regional Manager for the Hunter and Northern Employment Regions in NSW, April Carlin (pictured). Carlin promoted the Department’s new Youth Jobs PaTH program.

    The PaTH program boosts the employability skills of young people who have been unemployed for six months or more. It also offers financial incentives to employers to trial young persons for a job by offering them internships.

    “The PaTH program trains young people in those flexible skill sets that Maggie Hill from FYA has been talking about,” Carlin said. “We now have the ability within the training sector to customise courses. That ensures that job-seekers can be quickly brought up to speed with skills.”

    The Department of Employment and the HRF Centre will soon host a workshop on youth employment in the Hunter.That will occur at our new venue - NeW Space on Hunter Street - later in the year.

    Do you have opportunities available for young people? Your business can contribute to solutions to this critical regional issue, with the support of the Department of Employment. Their workshop will explore the support and incentives available to help you.

    If you want to take part, or are interested in more information about how Youth Jobs PaTH can help you recruit suitable young people into your business, click on the link below to contact Mark Almond.

    Read more MARK ALMOND
  • Employers pay premium for right skills among youth

    Tuesday, 15 August, 2017


    Youth employment was the focus at the August Hunter Economic breakfast of the Hunter Research Foundation (HRF) Centre. Maggie Hill from the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) described the skills sets required by young people to gain a job in one of range of job clusters.

    Insights into the patterns of skills that young people are being asked to exhibit came from analysis of 2.7 million job advertisements. The analysis revealed that young people need to acquire enterprise skills, including digital and financial literacy. They also need communication, creativity and problem solving abilities.

    Employers will pay more for those skills. The FYA jobs analysis showed that presentation skills earned a salary premium of $8,853, digital literacy meant another $8,648, and problem-solving added $7,745.

    These abilities are talked about as ‘soft’ skills that young people should pick up for themselves. The FYA advocates for them to be deliberately taught these skills. They want to stress their importance and show young people how to communicate to prospective employers that they have these skills.

    The FYA study compared how often enterprise skills were called for in early career job advertisements, comparing 2012 with 2015. During this period, there was a 212 per cent increase in the call for digital literacy, 181 per cent increase for bilingual skills, 158 per cent for critical thinking, and a 65 per cent increase for creativity.

    These insights are particularly relevant in regions like the Hunter, where the youth unemployment rate for June was 10.8 per cent, double our overall rate of 5.1 per cent. This higher rate illustrates how young people are often ‘on the margin’ - in part-time or casual employment, where they are easier to let go.

    Relative to more experienced labour market participants, young people tend to lack skills, qualifications and an employment history. That makes them particularly vulnerable during periods of employment contraction.

    To respond to this regional challenge, the HRF Centre’s breakfast included a panel discussion that explored solutions to help young people to navigate their path to employment.

    Geoff Crews from Forsythes Recruitment, speaking on the panel, said that leadership was important in ensuring meaningful work opportunities for young people.

    Another area of emerging opportunity for young people is in the changing nature of marketing and business technology, Crews said.

    “Modern leaders and businesses will now neither completely outsource or insource these functions. They will lean on the knowledge and lateral thinking of a young employee. They will, innately, be able to achieve a range of marketing and technology outcomes by using more agile and cost effective cloud and digital platforms.”

    Maggie Hill said that the era of a ‘job for life’ is over. Young Australians entering the workforce today might have as many as five different careers and make 17 job changes over their working lives.

    “It is commonly viewed that moving from one occupation to another would entail high switching and retraining costs. However, our study found that jobs are more related than we might think.”

    The FYH study found that, on average, a person training or working in one job acquires skills for 13 other jobs. By understanding that jobs are more related and that skills can be portable, young people can be more strategic in navigating dynamic working lives.

    “Rather than approaching learning as a one-off process before their first job, or as a radical retraining to change careers, young people can build a portfolio of skills. They can target key learning areas to open up related job and career opportunities throughout their life.”

    Employers also need to think differently when recruiting. They could consider potential candidates from different occupations with similar skills.

    Is your business ready to provide opportunities for the Hunter’s young people? If so, the HRF Centre would like to hear from you.

    Dr Anthea Bill,
    Lead Economist, HRF Centre

    Access the research and breakfast presentations at

    This opinion piece was published in the Newcastle Sunday on 13 August

    Read more DR ANTHEA BILL Download pdf (152.91 KB)
  • Students create Fijian homestay experience

    Tuesday, 15 August, 2017


    A group of University of Newcastle students and staff are helping remote Fijian villagers to establish a new tourism program.

    A group of 13 students and two staff members from the University’s Faculty of Business and Law recently returned from a work placement in the village of Naiseuseu, located on Beqa Island, south of the main island Viti Levu. While there, they helped to develop village homestay micro-businesses that target Australian university students.

    The concept of the homestay program was sparked by University of Newcastle academics, Adjunct Professor Michael Tarrant and Professor Kevin Lyons. The Naiseuseu community wanted to increase tourism in their village in a sustainable and realistic way. The Newcastle students gained course credit for developing the program.

    Kathleen Feeney, a third-year tourism, management and marketing student in the Faculty of Business and Law, who is currently completing a professional placement with the HRF Centre, was part of the group.

    “We were set the task of creating a website and ‘shell’ course for university faculties across Australia,” she explained. “The website is targeted at Australian academics seeking ‘study tour’ options for their students. The course, aimed at business students, blends a culturally immersive experience with a focus on resource management and Fijian village economics.”

    Kathleen, and 12 other students, journeyed to Fiji in July, travelling to Pacific Harbour; a gateway to the islands off Viti Levu. Beqa Island became their home for the next 10 days.

    “The island boasts beautiful protected coral reefs, untamed rainforest and very friendly people,” she said. “We familiarised ourselves with the Fijian way of life and developed a business plan with the village.”

    Kathleen said the Newcastle students and staff were ‘welcomed with open arms’ during their stay in Naiseuseu village. They were able to engage, communicate and consult with the community through meetings, ethnographic research and cultural immersion.

    The website, once established by the Newcastle team, will be managed by a locally-owned resort close to Naiseuseu, with the income going to the villagers.

    Professor Kevin Lyons said the Fijian project provided work integrated learning (WIL) for the students involved.

    “Being involved in WIL provides students with a competitive advantage,” Professor Lyons said. “They gain skills such as social entrepreneurship, global citizenship, community engagement and team-building.”

    The faculty has received further funding for another two years to extend the program to other Fijian villages.

    View the Fijian Homestays website created by the students.

    Read more
  • Businesss and consumers diverge over Hunter economy

    Friday, 4 August, 2017


    Download presentation and publications

    The gap between business and consumer confidence in the Hunter economy has widened in the June quarter. There is a sustained recovery in regional business conditions, but consumer spending remains subdued, in the Hunter and nationally.

    These results reflect the Hunter Research Foundation’s latest Hunter Region Economic Indicators, released at the Hunter Economic breakfast on Friday, 4 August.

    HRF Centre lead economist Dr Anthea Bill says that the majority of Hunter businesses surveyed reported satisfactory or better profitability in the quarter to June of this year. Improved trading levels, and capacity utilisation above the long-term average, offered further evidence of a sustained recovery in business sentiment and performance. These trends have continued to improve since the downturn at the end of the mining investment boom.

    “In contrast, consumer spending, in the Hunter and nationally, has not recovered from the substantial drop following the Global Financial Crisis,” Dr Bill stated. ”Among consumers, the region’s pessimists now slightly outnumber optimists in short-term expectations for the regional economy.”

    This local result is consistent with national data, where lacklustre consumer spending is seen to be constraining growth. There has been historically low wage growth, record levels of household debt, and a continued drain on household savings. Housing approvals in the Hunter have declined during the June quarter, and there was a drop in house prices.

    “The HRF Centre will closely watch the sentiment levels locally. We want to see if business success and growth in full-time jobs in the Hunter boosts consumer optimism,” Dr Bill said.

    Analysis of the economic results was released at the Hunter Economic breakfast at Wests City on Friday 4 August. The breakfast also featured new research on youth employment and an expert panel discussion presenting a Hunter perspective on this important issue.

    Read more Dr Anthea Bill
  • HRF Centre to host Productivity Commission

    Thursday, 13 July, 2017


    The HRF Centre has been invited to provide feedback to the Australian Government Productivity Commission on its Transitioning Regional Economies draft report.

    The Centre has agreed to host the Commission’s representatives at the University’s NeW Space building on 17 July. The Centre has also helped them to organise meetings with a range of local experts from government agencies, business, and the University.

    The Australian Government has asked the Commission to characterise impacts in regional areas from the transition of the Australian economy following the resources boom.

    Their task is to:

    • Devise an analytical framework to assess the scope for economic and social development in regions;
    • Establish an economic metric to identify regions most at risk of failing to adjust to a more sustainable economic base; and
    • Characterise factors that affect the capacity of ‘at risk’ regions to adapt to changes in economic circumstances.

    The Commission’s draft report was released in April 2017. They are now consulting widely, seeking feedback and other expert insight. Their final report is to be published in December.

    The HRF Centre’s lead economist, Dr Anthea Bill, and Director, Professor Will Rifkin, will provide insights on the Hunter region, as well as on other regions. They will also offer methods for characterising significant regional change.

    Read more DR ANTHEA BILL Download pdf (117.54 KB)
  • NeW Space connects University to city

    Thursday, 13 July, 2017


    The Faculty of Business and Law and the Hunter Research Foundation Centre are now firmly located in the centre of the business community. We have moved this month to the NeW Space building on the corner of Hunter and Auckland Streets.

    Professor Tony Travaglione, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Business and Law, sees significant opportunities. University of Newcastle researchers and students can work more closely with business, industry, not-for-profit and government organisations.

    “The University’s new CBD campus provides an exceptional space for Business and Law academics and students and the Hunter Research Foundation Centre. We can work closely with a range of stakeholders to develop business research projects. There is also a greater chance to develop student employment opportunities and partnerships, which can actively contribute to the economic and social development of Newcastle and the Hunter.”

    If you would like to tour this amazing new facility, please send us an e-mail expressing your interest. Indicate what times of day might suit you. We will schedule a tour and let you know. You will get to see meeting rooms with a great view of the harbour (available to outside organisations), new high-tech classrooms, and the open plan offices where the academics now work.

    Find out more about NeW Space.

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