There has been much talk of late about our high unemployment rate in Australia and the implications of this for our economy and our future as a nation. And it looks as though the situation will worsen before it gets better as major manufacturing companies move operations off-shore over the next two years.

As the CEO of SYC, a not-for-profit organisation that delivers employment, training and youth services across Australia, this has not been as concerning to me as the domino effect it’s having – and will continue to have – on our younger population (15-25), which is suffering even worse unemployment levels, an issue I have previously written about in Weekend Professional.

The June 2015 ABS statistics presented a 15 year high in teenage unemployment at 19.5% and youth unemployment at 13.4%. Unlike the general unemployment rate that did bounce back after the GFC, the teenage and youth unemployment rates did not, and have continued on an upward climb since 2008. Genuine entry level jobs that enable young people to transition from education to employment are available in reducing numbers, thereby shrinking the opportunities for young people to get that all important first job. This is compounded with employment participation statistics showing older people staying in the workforce longer, meaning that there is greater competition in the labour force, for fewer jobs.

Surely this flags the question, if we don’t develop our younger generations in the work force, who is available to replace exiting baby boomers from the workforce as they retire over the next 15 to 20 years?

There are 360,000 Australians, between the ages of 17 to 25 who are currently not in any form of employment, education or training (NEET). For a young person who enters the welfare system and does not secure sustained employment by the age of 22, they will likely remain unemployed for the most part of their working age life. This has obvious social and economic implications for the Australian community.

My First Job, an SYC initiative, began a working group in 2014 to develop open dialogue between service providers, employment and training peak bodies, the Commonwealth Government and importantly, major employers, with the objective of establishing a best practice structure that allows young people and employers to link successfully and create sustainable employment outcomes.

This process has shown that there is much goodwill for the success of young people to transition well from a learning to working environment. However, there remains rhetoric in our community that places the blame of youth unemployment with young people – young people’s attitude and lack of skills and work experience.

Kate Carnell, CEO of Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) commented recently that “the simplest way to learn skills is for young people to get into the work force as soon as they can”, an over simplification that is not realistic in the face of escalating teenage and youth unemployment rates. It is a circular argument to say that young people need to show they have work experience to gain employment – how do you secure employment when you have no experience?

It is time in Australia for our governments both State and Commonwealth to develop a national youth employment strategy, matched with a commitment from employers, Corporate Australia as well as ACCI’s SME membership base, that employing young Australians is about the sustainability of our economy as well as their wellbeing. The alternative of doing nothing just isn’t a reasonable or sensible option for our country.

Paul Edginton is Chief Executive Officer of SYC Ltd, this was an opinion piece published in The Australian on Saturday 15 August 2015, to learn more about My First Job visit: