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Youth unemployment a key focus on European study tour

Australia, 08 Aug 2017

SYC is a not-for-profit organisation centred on employment, training and youth services. With a core purpose of helping people in need, SYC works with disadvantaged young people to support them in their transition to leading an independent and prosperous life.

In 2014, SYC’s CEO Paul Edginton won Macquarie’s David Clarke Social Innovation Fellowship in Australia. Edginton had sought the Macquarie Group Foundation’s support for a European study tour to visit countries which had sustained low levels of youth unemployment, such as Germany and Switzerland, as well as those seeing a reduction in high levels of youth unemployment because of a public policy focus, like the United Kingdom.

The ‘My First Job European Study Tour’ was undertaken in August and September 2015 and included 24 meetings with policy makers, service providers and employers over ten days across the three jurisdictions. The tour’s goal was to identify and understand how European models of youth engagement and youth transition into employment could be successfully adapted to an Australian context.

Since 2013, SYC, through its My First Job initiative, sought to drive change within the government and private sector for the support of young Australians as they seek to transition from learning or inactivity into employment. My First Job advocates and provides structures for young people and employers to meet for sustained employment outcomes.

In the same way that SYC has collaborated with the youth, training and employment services sectors, as well as employers for the purposes of the My First Job initiative, the 2015 My First Job European study tour was an open delegation from Australia to explore the youth employment successes in European jurisdictions.

For Edginton “the Fellowship afforded me the opportunity to collaborate with several colleagues directly as part of the delegation and more broadly through the network of supporters and observers who followed the tour on the tour blog”.

“This element of sharing – and sharing interpretations of the things we observed on the tour – improved the learning and insight more than had I simply done the tour on my own. I know it will have a lasting impact on the input of SYC into youth employment policy for many years to come.”

Two themes were evident across the countries visited: a strong training culture and a belief that no child should be left behind. Three key findings additionally emerged:

  • The importance of multiple (a minimum of four) career conversations between Year 6 to 10 to encourage thinking and planning for employment and career opportunities, with evidence of increased lifetime earnings;
  • Availability of traineeships, which move beyond trade apprenticeships, and how VET employment pathways can be developed to resolve skill shortages;
  • Genuine and multiple flexible learning pathways for those who have disengaged from mainstream school, aligned with labour market entry.

Each of the themes and findings focus on providing young people more access to the world of work at an early age and create more flexible options to help young people complete their education and find employment.

SYC has shared these findings since returning from the tour and Edginton has sought to find ways to apply the findings in an Australian context.

SYC has partnered with UK leading youth employment charity The Prince’s Trust and Prince’s Trust International, as well as Prince’s Charities Australia to deliver their successful employment pathway model, Get Into in Australia.

Get Into is designed to match young job seekers with training in their area of interest, with employment outcomes at the end of it. Through this pilot Get Into program, SYC and Prince’s Trust International are supporting 50 young South Australians who are currently unemployed, through training opportunities in the areas of childcare, retail and aged care. They are also working with a number of employers who will offer work experience and guaranteed job interviews at the conclusion of training and then employment positions for at least 50 per cent of participants.

SYC will work with those job seekers who have not secured employment, to utilise their training and experience to secure employment with other employers in the relevant sectors.

A conversation with one of the UK’s largest employment services providers during My First Job European Study Tour also revealed that a young person can experience four to seven jobs in their first year of work before they settle into a steady job and success is more about young people remaining in work, with few breaks in between jobs as possible.

This understanding led SYC to develop the Sticking Together pilot project which is currently being trialled in Victoria and South Australia with 100 participants. The Sticking Together Project supports a young person over the course of an entire year, creating a feeling of success for the young person, rather than viewing multiple jobs as a failure to connect with the labour force.

A control study is being undertaken concurrently with the Queensland University of Technology, to monitor the success of young job seekers “sticking” to the labour market.

Early results for both pilots are seeing very positive engagement and employment outcomes for participants. SYC continues to engage Commonwealth and state governments, industry sectors and employers about both youth employment and these two particular programs and will seek to expand both at pilot conclusions.

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