Tuesday, 22 August, 2017


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

The Hunter’s youth unemployment rate for June was 10.8 per cent, double the overall rate of 5.1 per cent. The youth rate is more responsive to labour market conditions than the overall rate. Young people are ‘on the margin’, having had less opportunity to acquire qualifications or build skills given their shorter employment history.

Studies indicate that young people who complete vocational education and training achieve better long-term employment outcomes than those who do no post-school training. However, data on Hunter apprenticeship completions for 15 to 24 year olds shows a 24 per cent decline since 2012. The decline has occurred across most sectors, with the greatest falls in manufacturing, retail, other services and hospitality.

Apprentice numbers can be seen to reflect to economy-wide employment shifts. To counter this trend, there have been calls for an increase in industry provision of apprenticeships. To prioritise spending on apprenticeships and traineeships, the Federal Government has committed $1.5 billion through the Skilling Australians fund.

Maggie Hill, from the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), spoke at the Hunter economic breakfast on the shift in thinking needed in order to prepare for the ‘new world of work’. She explained the patterns of skills that young Australians are being asked to exhibit, which were revealed in a recent study commissioned by FYA.

The study’s analysis of 2.7 million job advertisements showed that employers are increasingly seeking ‘enterprise’ skills, including digital and financial literacy, communication, creativity and problem-solving ability. Hill said that young people need to be formally taught these skills at school.

The FYA analysis found that jobs are more related than we might think, falling into seven clusters. Hill said that, on average, a person training or working in one job acquires skills for 13 others. By understanding that jobs are more related and that skills can be portable, young people can prepare for a dynamic work environment.

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

The Department of Employment’s Regional Manager, April Carlin, spoke at the breakfast. Carlin promoted the Department’s new Youth Jobs PaTH program.

“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 the University’s NeW Space on Hunter Street later this year.

Your business can contribute to solutions to this critical regional issue, with the support of the Department of Employment. If you want to take part or find out how Youth Jobs PaTH can help you recruit suitable young people into your business, contact Mark Almond using the link below.

Dr Anthea Bill
Lead Economist, HRF Centre

This opinion piece was published in the Newcastle Herald on 22 August 2017

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