SYC's My First Job initiative aims to raise understanding and awareness of the challenges that exist for young people looking to enter the work force, and increasing the numbers of real entry-level positions by working with Government and private sector employers to find viable solutions.
While vocational and further education contributes significantly to developing valuable work skills, it’s true that only in the workplace can real work experience be gained. In other words, young people cannot be 100% work ready without having worked.
As a society, Australians are focussed on how to keep the economy growing and maintain standards of living. Focus often falls on the number of skilled workers required, keeping older workers working longer and utilising skilled migration. These are important policy considerations, but nowhere in this conversation are young people being included as a piece of the jigsaw to achieve economic growth.
Obtaining a first job is often the hardest step a young person faces when transitioning to independence. It presents challenges that can make them question their capabilities and self, in a way that they never have before. They no longer have the security of 10-13 years of a protected school environment and there are very few options supporting young people transitioning to the labour market.
A young person needs enhanced support to enter the workforce; compared to a worker with experience. Therefore they can often be overlooked for employment in favour of an individual who requires less training and focus. Having the right skills, networks and referees are all crucial to the challenges of landing a first job.
Once a young person does have a job they are often amongst the lowest skilled and most vulnerable workers in the labour market and young people are particularly at risk of being taken advantage of because they are unfamiliar with their rights.
The unemployment rate for young Australians is 25.1 per cent (ABS, Labour force, Cat No. 6202.0, September 2012). For young people living in the top ten areas of disadvantage in the nation, that rate rises to above 40 per cent.
These are staggering statistics and a wake-up call that young people need support to transition to becoming effective employees.