Ms Farah Farouque
Senior Advisor Public Affairs and Policy, Brotherhood of St Laurence. A law graduate who worked as a judge’s associate after completing her degree before plunging headlong into the hothouse world of journalism. Over two decades her roles included three years in the Canberra press gallery and a stint heading up The Age’s Social Affairs reporting team.
Ms Maia Giordano
Deputy Director, Australian Youth Affairs Coalition. Worked in advocacy for youth volunteers at the NSW state peak body. The former Vice President of Invisible Children Australia and has experience in both local and state government sectors as well as completing a Human Geography Honours research on implementing the UN Child-Friendly Cities model in Australia.
Policy Director, Business Council of Australia. Joined the Business Council of Australia in 2012. Her appointment builds on a long career in public policy, including as a senior executive with the Department of Finance and Deregulation, where she initiated and led whole-of-government service delivery reform for the Australian Government.
Many organisations have weighed in on the issue. The Australian Youth Affairs Coalition has released findings from a survey1 of young people on their experiences with the welfare system. And the Brotherhood of St Laurence has launched a monthly series of updates2 as part of a recent campaign to address youth unemployment. Also this year, the Business Council of Australia has entered into a partnership with the Foundation for Young Australians to encourage greater cooperation between services, business, communities and educators to meet the needs of young people looking for work. And at the time of this recording, the proposed Federal Budget for 2014 – 2015 is before the Senate. The proposed changes affect traditional welfare supports for young people seeking employment or undertaking education and training.
While there are many and varied thoughts on the factors that contribute to youth unemployment and how to address it, there is one thing that everyone - politicians, service providers and of course young people – can all agree on: It’s getting tougher for young people to find employment.
Farah Farouque, senior advisor with the Brotherhood of St Laurence, explains what the trends have shown from their monthly employment updates.
Farah Farouque: We have seen a disturbing change in the nature of youth unemployment not only is it rising but young people are staying unemployed for longer. In fact one of our recent reports documented that of the more than quarter of a million 15-25 year olds who are currently unemployed, more than 50,000 of them have been unemployed for more than a year.
Presenter: Rates of youth unemployment are rising, especially in regional areas - placing greater demands on services to be aware of the needs of young people.
Farah Farouque: Increasingly I think we know that a lot of disadvantage issues are built around spacial issues and geography. And so our research when we launched our first youth unemployment monitor in February we used ABS3 data to look at unemployment averaged out in the year to January this year, and then we were able to use the data to look at particular geographic areas and we've seen that in some parts of Australia youth unemployment of 15-24 year olds is very severe. Youth are specially bearing the brunt in outer suburban, regional and rural areas. For example over the year January 2013 our analysis showed that youth unemployment hit 21% in west and northwest Tasmania which includes Burnie and Devonport, over 20% in Cairns, nearly 20% in northern Adelaide, which includes the areas of Elizabeth and Gawler, 17.5% in the Hume area in Victoria which includes the Goulburn Valley, Wodonga and Wangaratta, 17.3% in Mandurah in West Australia and we hear a lot about western Sydney and we've got 16.8% in the broader Parramatta area of youth unemployment.
Presenter: Despite these figures, young people still report that they are keen to seek employment and make the most of training and education opportunities that can help them in the future.
Maia Giordano Deputy Director with the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition says that the findings from their Youth Welfare survey show that young people would much prefer working to being on unemployment benefits.
Maia Giordano: Our welfare survey, we actually asked young people what they would prefer: to have a job and earn their own, versus getting money from Centrelink. And actually 96% of young people said that they would actually prefer to have a job and earn their own money. I think we need to start shifting the myth that young people are languishing on welfare because they want to be there. There is that clear indication from young people that they're actually wanting to get out there into the workforce but they're needing those additional supports.
Presenter: The Brotherhood of St Laurence provides employment services to young people and also recognises their enthusiasm and willingness to work.
Farah Farouque: Young people really want to contribute and this notion of young people just want to have a good time, which is sometimes perpetuated by tabloid media and tabloid television, is completely different from the realities of young people's experiences, they're hungry for work, they're hungry for opportunity.
Presenter: To meet the challenges ahead, services, business and employers, communities can work cooperatively to help young people seeking employment or undertaking training.
Maia Giordano: Better linkages between education, training and employment, is a key strategy that needs to be looked at. In terms of the participation requirements with Newstart, sometimes young people are having to do training and they might just be repeating the same sort of training that is not applicable to them or they've already done it and it hasn't got them a job, so we need to start looking at effectiveness in terms of the of training and supports young people are getting. What is actually happening, rather than just ticking off and saying we've trained X number of people. We need to start looking at the system, and saying yes, X number of people have been trained, but in terms of effective outcome has that training led to a job?
Presenter: Marion Terril, Policy Director with the Business Council of Australia (BCA), says that while employers do have a role in helping young people gain the skills they need, it’s a shared responsibility.
Marion Terril: Ideally I do think it is the part of the role of employers to do that. But It's a shared responsibility really with the educational providers, schools and Unis and VET colleges and the employer and the young person themself, to take responsibility for developing themselves in terms of skills that are useful not just in one work place but will take them from one workplace to another.
Presenter: The key seems to be in providing services that match the needs of employers to young job seekers.
Marion Terril: Young people are applying for jobs but many employers who are members of the BCA say that they cannot find candidates with the right skills. It's quite a tricky problem to think about what has brought that about. Our perspective on this is that our education and training systems could do better at preparing young people with the competencies and skills and perhaps the attitudes to make them ready for work. But we do recognise that many of the skills, things like communication and teamwork, are often best taught in a work environment, so one thing that we have done is to join with Universities Australia and other education organisations and business groups to sign a statement of intent on work integrated learning. What we want to do by that is to provide better opportunities in the course of study, we're starting with universities but I don't think in any way this is restricted to universities, it's just as relevant for VET colleges and schools to improve the opportunities to learn in a way that is relevant to the workplace. So the kind of things we're thinking of at the moment are cadetships and internships but also things like working on real world problems that employers face but in an educational setting. So I think that for young people to take all of those opportunities and where they can to actually create those opportunities for themselves is a really important part of preparing for the world of work.
Presenter: However, the experiences of young people themselves have shown that current services are not providing services that meet the needs that are required from employers.
Maia Gordano: I think at the heart of it with the job service providers is the need for a youth-friendly approach, either a separate youth-friendly job service provider or incorporating training and those skills within the current providers, because that's often where the mismatch is happening.
In our survey, one young person said they attended a meeting and someone said "great, you've come along, I can tick you off, that's fine, off you go" and so, there is that tendency that young people are saying they're actually just a tick box, there's not a genuine engagement in what they need to actually get work.
Presenter: Sarah (not her real name) has been working since she was 15 when she dropped out of school and left home.
Like many young people, Sarah worked hard at balancing work and education, but without some of the support she has received, it would be difficult for her to succeed.
Sarah: I'm actually working a hospitality job, I'm a casual, I'm actually bartending in a club, because it fits around my study I can do things throughout the week and be able to work on the weekends make extra cash, stay out of trouble, not spend it on the weekends. That's how it is now. I'm also living in supported accommodation, so I'm not needing to work 3 jobs when I was living in private rental.
Presenter: Sarah’s experiences have varied greatly, in part due to her moving frequently and changing service providers. While she notes that staff at Centrelink and the jobs services themselves have been friendly and approachable, she feels that they have not been effective in helping her find work.
Sarah: Centrelink links me up with a job-seeking agency and I was given a worker to work with me and have an appointment once a week. And I'd have to go in to give her a list or him a list of places I've applied for like you know their address, their number, email address, that kind of thing. You have to go in every day and then you look for jobs, and that person is meant to help you with your resume or help you if you're unable to buy interview clothes, and will give you a $50 voucher to go and get some work shoes or black pants, or something like that. So they were helpful in that regard, but they're also meant to help you organise some interviews because usually those job seeker places they have relationships with other work places and they're able to organise an interview for you and you get first priority. To be honest, I was with them for more than a year, and they organised me two interviews and one of the interviews I took two hours to get ready, rocked up and had my resume had done prep questions, and got there and the manager looks me up and down and looks at my resume, and says "why are you here? You don't even have any experience, you realise this job requires two years of admin experience." I was absolutely gutted, I was devastated that you know that I was put on show I felt embarrassed I felt ashamed that this lady had organised this interview that was part of her job and then she just wasn't competent and I ended up feeling like an idiot, feeling depressed, didn't want to look for work, because when you look for work, you apply and you apply and you apply, but you get knocked back constantly, and that requires some resilience around that, you have to keep putting a positive attitude towards it.
Presenter: The experiences gained in entry-level work play a huge role in how young people view their futures according to Marion Terril, Policy Director with the Business Council of Australia.
Marion Terril: In your first job or your first full-time job to be able to learn about a workplace and to establish yourself in a workplace and to set yourself up for the job after that one and the one after that, that is meaningful and purposeful sort of almost regardless of what the exact nature of the job is, we know really that if young people don’t get established in the workforce, there is an immediate economic loss that they suffer, they're not earning an income they may be getting welfare but there is also a scarring effect that is very long lived and it can be very personally devastating for people to not make that successful transition. Getting that full-time job and being able to learn the skills and the ways of work is really important and we don’t for a moment underestimate the importance of that happening as successfully as possible.
Presenter: Sarah confirms that once you have that first job, you’re more able to find work later on.
Sarah: When you go to a workplace and they'll always tell you that you need to have experience but if you don't have the experience then they won't hire you, how are you going to have the experience in the first place, so that's a Catch 22 and it's really infuriating.
Presenter: Building those skills that employers are looking for into school education is also a way to help young people. Many employers have found that young people aren’t as prepared as they could be for those first jobs, resulting in a mismatch of expectations between the young person and the employer.
Marion Terril: This mismatch is an important structural problem. The way we have thought about it are the things I've mentioned about increasing the opportunities for work-integrated learning in a range of different ways, but really it means for education providers to have better industry links and more of a work focus while people are being taught. But there are other considerations which is really where we are going to with our partnerships with the Foundation for Young Australians, to look at things like career counseling and some of the things that perhaps lie outside formal educational programs.
Presenter: Sarah has been fortunate to have access to support that allows her to concentrate on her studies.
Sarah: I definitely think education is a key, which is why I started studying at TAFE, ‘cause I felt too daunted by Uni, I also didn't get my HSC so I couldn't get into Uni and had to wait to become a mature age student to apply.
Now I just go to counseling and I've got a caseworker so I just touch base with her, but when I was younger, when I was on a job seeker payment, now I'm on youth allowance because I'm studying full-time and I'm also living in supported housing so I'm making enough money to pay my rent, which is $100 a week, and I'm able to put some savings away and I'm able to do extra things, I can actually save up for a trip some where or that kind of thing, I can do extra things and not feel as stressed, but when I was bouncing in and out of support services, and then I ended doing it on my own, so I went and lived in private rental, I dropped out of school completely and ended up job seeking.
Presenter: Sarah says that studying at TAFE has given her the job-ready skills she needs. This has allowed her to experience what work is like and to plan for further education that will help her reach her goals. Like many other young Australians, Sarah sees her future as a combination of gaining experience through work and education.
Sarah: I learn better by doing things, so my course I've just finished my diploma and I've done quite like big chunks of prac. I've learned so much more in that job, I've learned skills that I can apply in every other industry, so that's where it's been helpful and it's given me the confidence to go on and look at going to Uni. I’m actually looking at that now and will probably send off an application soon.