Helping youth tackle social and economic disengagement

12 April 2018

The Macquarie Group Foundation has decided to focus its grant making strategy in Australia over coming years on creating educational, social and economic opportunity for young people.

With youth unemployment more than double the national average and over 450,000 Australians aged between 15 and 29 not in employment, education or training, there is a risk of long-term disadvantage in this generation.

"Without intervention, many young people could remain economically disengaged for life," says Lisa George, Global Head of the Macquarie Group Foundation.

The Foundation has undertaken two pieces of research to help develop its work in this area.

It commissioned a Centre for Social Impact report, which found economic disengagement can lead to serious long-term problems such as poorer health and social outcomes and entrenched unemployment.

The report found economic disengagement disproportionately affects people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, rural and regional areas, people with disabilities or mental health issues, and indigenous Australians.

It also highlighted the importance of increasing economic engagement among young people as the workforce ages and the government aims to reduce public service costs.

Macquarie also undertook research with McKinsey & Company and AlphaBeta to understand the employment challenges facing young Australians and identify potential opportunities.

It found that despite worsening youth unemployment, there were growing job opportunities across several sectors in Australia including healthcare and social assistance, professional and technical services, and education and training.

The work found that the care industry presents a particular opportunity for youth in Australia, with ~80,000 additional aged and disabled carer jobs anticipated over the next five years, as government programs scale.

The Macquarie Group Foundation is supporting efforts to skill young Australians to work in areas with an existing or anticipated labour shortage.

SYC, an employment, training and youth services non-profit that has received Foundation support, is looking at the structural shifts needed to reduce long-term youth unemployment.

Its Director of Corporate Strategy, Michael Clark, cites two pilot programs where SYC works with employers, one to provide young unemployed people with short practical training in labour shortage areas, followed by a guaranteed job interview, and the other coaching young people how to gain and maintain employment by better understanding their employer’s needs.

“These innovative programs tend to be where the magic happens because they tailor to the deeper needs of young people and employers," he says. "This is where corporate and private support spurs new approaches."

Macquarie is also supporting the Aurora Education Foundation, which works to increase Indigenous participation in tertiary education. Aurora's International Study Tour and Scholarships programs help Indigenous scholars study at the world's leading universities, including Cambridge, Harvard and Oxford.

Aurora's Chief Executive Officer, Richard Potok, says the program is based on merit. “Every single one of these students has been accepted on their own academic merits, rather through any form of affirmative action program. It’s an exciting story to tell – it’s beyond what Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians thought was possible."

“It has proven so successful that over the space of eight years, we’ve gone from no Indigenous Australians having ever studied for a full-time degree at Oxford or Cambridge, to 23 graduates and another 13 currently enrolled," Potok says.

Through its Outreach program, Aurora links Indigenous students in years 9 to 12 with high achieving Indigenous university graduates - including those who have through Aurora’s International Study Tour and Scholarships - giving them access to educational role models.

“Young Indigenous people often don't know what's possible," Potok says. “Simply meeting someone from the same background with similar hurdles to overcome who has gone on to achieve academic excellence can change your perceptions, open new worlds and set you up for life."

Macquarie announced its new grant making strategy earlier this year. Each of the four regions in which it operates (Australia, the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Asia) will concentrate its efforts on issues with local relevance.