Liz O'Connell

The basic premise of recent media coverage about “hopeless millennials” seems to be that today’s generation of young Australians have no life, interpersonal or work skills because they spend too much time on the internet.

When hasn’t the next generation of young people been criticised for their lack of skills or attitude to life?

Every generation before today’s so-called ‘millennials’ has had to learn core skills such as team work, social interaction, employment and work skills, along with the basics of life such as cooking and cleaning.

The difference between those generations and today’s young Australians is that previous generations could find a genuine entry level job that enabled them to transition from school to work, which in turn helped them learn about life and the world.

The sad reality is, today’s school-leavers simply don’t have those same opportunities.

Significant economic shift during the past 30 years in Australia has seen many of those entry level jobs disappear, which has resulted in incredibly high and prolonged youth unemployment rates throughout our country.

According to the report Generation Stalled – Young, Underemployed and Living Precariously in Australia, published by the Brotherhood of St Laurence in March this year, more than 650,000 young Australians were unemployed or underemployed in February 2017.

The report found that “precarious employment is hindering the capacity of many young people, especially those without qualifications and skills, to build satisfying and productive adult lives, as the pathways that were open to their parents appear to have stalled”.

How are young Australians going to learn life skills if they can’t find a job? And if they aren’t developing their lives in the workforce, who is going to be available to replace the baby boomers when they retire?

It’s clear that today’s young people need different opportunities to learn these skills.

SYC is a not-for-profit organisation that works with young Australians under the age of 25 – around 18,000 of them in the last financial year – to build their core skills and transition from school or unemployment into the workforce.

Instead of simply blaming technology for their predicament, our programs focus on helping young people to build and enhance their strengths and capabilities.

We support young people across a wide range of needs, from crisis accommodation through to maintaining a stable attachment to the labour market. The result is young people that possess the basic skills to lead a productive and satisfying life.

Stereotyping young people as hopeless does nothing to solve Australia’s youth unemployment problem.

Giving young Australians a chance through meaningful entry level jobs will not only improve the wellbeing of our community, but it will play an important role in maintaining a strong economy for future generations.