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Generation's success depends on more than jobs

By Jan Owen - posted Thursday, 24 April 2014

Australian employers are zooming in on youth unemployment and the 'skills mismatch' in a way that is crucial and long overdue.

Recent roundtables have seen leading CEOs having much needed conversations with young people about their aspirations and the challenges they face in making the transition from school to work.

Those conversations are far from over and the barriers to successful transition are far from addressed; those conversations will be meaningless if we don't act.


The youth unemployment rate, at over 12 per cent, is double the unemployment rate for adults. The mismatch between employers' needs and young people's skills is a persistent and growing problem in both directions; Australia has the third highest proportion of overqualified workers and the tenth highest proportion of underqualified workers in the OECD. This misalignment has significant implications for the efficiency of both our education system and our labour market.

The challenges young people face in the transition to work are not simple. The world of work is changing. Rapid technological advances, globalisation and constantly shifting labour market dynamics mean that young people require new skills, a different mindset and adaptability if they're to succeed.

On the supply side, the International Labour Office has reported three practical reasons why young people experience disadvantage in the labour market. First, they lack work experience. Second, they lack knowledge about how to navigate the complexity of career options and search for jobs. Third, they have fewer contacts to help them navigate towards work.

To facilitate that exposure and those networks we need to connect young people with the world of work as early and as often as possible. Young people are telling us that they want and need this.

Corinda, 17, from NSW, says of her newly started career journey, "If there is one thing I could change I wish I had started on this journey in younger years and have had more experiences of work through school."

Miquaelia, also 17, from Bairnsdale, is holding a community open event to connect employers and young people: "It's hard for young people to find a job, particularly one they like. That's why so many young people leave and move to the city. I want local shops and businesses to open their doors and show young people what they do."


It is heartening to see employers stepping up to provide the experience, knowledge and networks that young people are asking for, and need.

Yet we need to delve deeper. We can't focus purely on the provision of opportunities for young people to participate in the workforce because we don't know what the workforce of the future is going to look like.

It has been predicted that young people will have between 15 and 20 jobs that will likely span several "careers" as the type of work on offer changes. Even today, many of the most sought after jobs and on-the-rise sectors did not exist 10 years ago.

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About the Author

Jan Owen AM is CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Jan Owen

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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