We all need a first job – how do we ensure sustainable employment options for young people into the future?
04 Mar 2021
SYC first established the My First Job initiative in 2013 to engage Government and the business sector in solutions to a statically high youth unemployment rate. We brought a working group together to construct a youth-specific response, based on examples of good practice, that could sit within existing employment services.
By 2017 we had launched a pilot program to coach young people and employers to create sustained attachment to the workplace. The successful Sticking Together Project now operates across 3 states and has supported hundreds of young people to find and maintain employment.
Building upon the success of this initial work, we decided to undertake the working group process again in late 2019. Even pre-pandemic, unemployment figures for young people were consistently more than double that of the national average and increasing. This was compounded by a range of factors, including the gig economy, growth in underemployment, decline in entry level work, and technological disruption. Moreover, the cost to taxpayers of each disengaged young person is calculated to run up to more than half a million dollars over a lifetime.
Read more: The Case for My First Job 2.0
The MFJ 2.0 Working Group consisted of large, national employers of young people, small and medium enterprises, representatives from government, community organisations and non-government organisations, employer bodies, technology companies and recruitment firms. Collectively, members of the Working Group hired over 50,000 young people aged 15-24 in 2019 and, at any one time, employ over 110,000 15-24-year olds. In addition, Working Group members engage with over 500,000 young people at various stages on their pathway to employment through the services and programs they deliver.
This time, the working group was given a broader mission, to see how solutions in multiple areas, working together, can create a better environment for young people to access and maintain their first job.
We sought to unpack the current factors that prevent or enable businesses to employ more young people and what environment could support them in the future to increase their employment of young people. This was done through an appreciative enquiry approach, focusing on employment factors that would build on good practice or lead to better design of pathways to employment instead of solely studying unemployment factors.
The key difference with My First Job is the focus on bringing together employers who are exemplars of good practice in employing young people. For too long the focus has been on unemployment and what is wrong with young people instead of taking an appreciative enquiry approach and finding what is working, how we can build on the strengths of what is already therePaul Edginton, former CEO, SYC
The group reflected on their own experience entering the workforce, and the aspects that made this successful, their businesses’ current practices that engage young people in work, and the impact of changes in the environment surrounding, such as technology disruption and COVID-19.
We paired this deep discussion with the available data on youth employment as well as literature from overseas to develop a set of realistic recommendations to combat this wicked problem.
Read their recommendations here:
- Understanding and Awareness of First Jobs
- Creation of First Jobs
- Access to First Jobs
- Support for First Jobs
In the middle of our Working Group process, COVID-19 hit. This gave us a close-up look at how employers and other organisations were reacting to the changing world around us. For example, some initiatives that Working Group members supposed might be years away were suddenly a reality overnight. We saw even more dramatic changes to the landscape for youth employment, with young people uniquely vulnerable to loss of work and loss of opportunity.
Five years of progress has been made in consumer and business digital adoption in just eight weeks and 38% of Australian businesses changed their delivery method and moved their business online.CSIRO COVID-19: Recovery and resilience
If we are ever going to get ahead of the curve and make lasting improvements to youth employment, businesses and governments need to adopt this increased rate of change and apply it where it’s needed most.