How do you get experience when you need experience to be offered the chance to gain it in the first place? It is a real life chicken/egg conundrum. And with youth unemployment frighteningly high (up to five times the average rate in parts of Australia), it’s a problem we need to pay attention to.
Youth unemployment and disengagement is often swept under the carpet with a condescending flick of a wrist as we cast off the upcoming generation as lazy, entitled and addicted to smashed avo on toast. They are dismissed as unwilling to work when there are "plenty of jobs picking fruit and working on farms" under the "I never had a problem getting work, so clearly the problem is you" social policy of our times. In reality, finding work for young people (like everyone else) is rarely straightforward.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence’s most recent Youth Unemployment Monitor has identified 250,000 young people as experiencing unemployment in this country.
It found that young people who are without access to training opportunities, family support and employable skills are at particular risk of unemployment.
However, it’s not just unskilled young people without qualifications that are finding themselves out in the cold. The research showed young people graduating with qualifications from TAFE and university are stepping out into the big wide world for the first time with hope and aspirations for a meaningful career, but have been smacked back into place after they haven’t successfully found work in their area of study.
I have worked with a number of young kids getting out of school and applying for apprenticeships – often the option people throw out as something they can always "fall back on" to get a "real job" where they’ll get their hands dirty and be pushed out of their comfort zone.
These people have clearly never attempted to apply for an apprenticeship.
In my experience, it’s a similar journey to trying to find a graduate job – it can take hundreds of applications and tens of instances where they finish second before they land an apprenticeship. If they land an apprenticeship. Many young people start out with a clear plan as to what trade they want to enter and what industry they want to work in and, after a year of applications, they are pulling their hair out, ready to accept ANY apprenticeship that is offered to them, just so they can have the promise of a career.
Apprenticeships and traineeships are highly competitive and coveted, and not something a person can just "do" without the drive to achieve it.
Whether the young person is looking for a job as a first year boilermaker apprentice in the mining industry, or as a veterinarian in a regional area, they often have to think strategically and creatively to get their foot in the door. Work placements and work experience, networking with Mum and Dad’s circle of contacts (assuming they have family support), door knocking, LinkedIn stalking, holding up signs on the side of the road … you name it, I’ve seen it done.
These kids aren’t sitting on their couches playing PlayStation, waiting for their Mum or Dad to do their washing and make them a sandwich.
These kids aren’t sitting on their couches playing PlayStation, waiting for their Mum or Dad to do their washing and make them a sandwich. For many young people in this situation, the reality is living out of a backpack, couch surfing around their friends or worse.
For many young people in this situation, the reality is living out of a backpack, couch surfing around their friends or worse, living rough on the street. In fact, two in every five homeless Victorians are under 25.
With 28 years of economic growth clocked in this country, how can we still flick our wrists so dismissively and claim that the blame for this lies solely on the shoulders of our youth? When you need $200 of tickets just to pull a beer in a pub, $300 of tickets to flip a stop/go bat in road works and a certificate in business administration to be a receptionist, not to mention the relevant experience expected to be competitive for the job, how can we blame them?
Is it not our job to pave the way for our children’s generations? These young people are the future of our country and it’s time we recognised that gaining a job is a two-way street – it’s up to the young person to apply, but it’s up to us to hire them.
Zoë Wundenberg is a careers writer and coach at impressability.com.au.