What We Learned from My First Job 1.0
29 Aug 2019
How can we support young people, particularly those who may have experienced disadvantage, to gain the skills necessary and opportunities needed to secure and maintain employment?
That question underpinned the development of SYC’s My First Job (MFJ) initiative in 2013 and the work undertaken by the MFJ Working Group in 2014. Ultimately, the pursuit of an answer led to the creation of the MFJ White Paper titled ‘Improved Job Outcomes for Young People: A Plan for enhancing Employment Services for young people leaving education and joining the workforce’.
That same question will also underpin SYC’s work on My First Job 2.0 (MFJ 2.0), but before we embark on the MFJ 2.0 journey, it is worth reflecting on the objectives of MFJ 1.0 and the learnings from that project.
MFJ 1.0 set out to find examples of good practice across employers, employment and training providers, and Government that contribute to young people gaining and sustaining employment.
The expectation was that by looking at these best practice examples we could codify them into a series of program design elements that, if fully implemented on a large-scale, would lift the employment outcomes for young people.
While it was expected that the framework would benefit all young people seeking to gain and sustain employment, certain cohorts were identified that would benefit more. These cohorts include young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, who are more likely to experience disadvantage, and those with lower education attainment.
Through undertaking the MFJ project, we learned that young people from low socio-economic backgrounds are significantly less likely to attain Year 12 or equivalent compared to young people from the highest socio-economic backgrounds. The gap gets even bigger when we look at what young people were doing after leaving school. Young people from the lowest socio-economic backgrounds were far more likely to not be fully engaged in work or study compared to young people from the highest socio-economic backgrounds.
If we could reduce the gap between those young people from low socio-economic backgrounds and those from the highest, MFJ found there would be significant benefits. When a person does not successfully transition from school to work and they are disengaged from education and employment they are more likely to:
- Come into contact with the health, justice, housing support, and social services systems.
- Be in receipt of Commonwealth benefits.
- And if they do not improve that status by age 25 they are likely to become ‘stuck’ and long-term welfare-dependent rather than employed.
Improving their economic participation will bring economic, social and wellbeing benefits to the individual as well as the Australian community. Research by the Mitchell Institute has now been able to place a value on this. They found that by age 24, not being fully engaged in work, education and training had significant costs because the young people were less likely to develop key skills, which in turn made them less likely to find meaningful and well-paid employment long into their adult life. They placed the fiscal costs for each disengaged young person (i.e. lost taxes, welfare payments, and health and justice service use) at $412,000 over a working lifetime.
Beyond better understanding the cohort, MFJ 1.0 delivered on its promise of a youth-specific framework to help lift employment outcomes for young people. This was based on best practice examples of success from our working group, such as McDonald’s Australia’s investment in free vocational training to employees and Coles pre-employment training and mentoring program for Indigenous participants. These are examples that have worked and can also be broken down into distinct steps or features to be broadly replicated.
Ultimately, this led to developing a model consisting of five elements that cover the pre-employment phase, to help young people get into work, and the post-employment phase, to help young people sustain work.
Since MFJ 1.0, SYC has further refined our understanding of the model through testing several programs based on the framework. Our Sticking Together Project was designed based on element five, post-placement support or ‘Keeping My First Job’. Sticking Together proposed that if you provided 60-weeks of post-placement support via a coach to the most disadvantaged young people in employment services you could considerably boost their employment outcomes. The results from the program have proven this to be true.
Through a partnership with the Prince’s Trust Australia, we were also able to pilot their Get Into program, which combined elements of ‘Training for My First Job’ and ‘Getting My First Job’. In Get Into, young people undertake training programs closely aligned to a specific employer, which better targets their needs, and the employer offers a job interview and a set number of job opportunities creating an incentive to finish the program. Molly’s story shows how these added elements helped her find sustainable employment for the first time.
One of the key learnings that will guide MFJ 2.0 is that the above model assumed young people move through the phases in a linear fashion. In reality, young people engage in the elements in a more dynamic way. This is particularly evident in the Sticking Together Project, where young people move through the various stages at different times, in different orders, and their coach played an important role in helping them to navigate their pathway. Equipping all young people and their employers to think in this way will be a key part of MFJ 2.0.
MFJ 1.0 taught us a great deal about the employment experiences of young people and highlighted where we are having success, but there is still much to learn. If we are to achieve better employment outcomes for young people, we need to take what we know and continue to develop and refine our model in the face of the changing context of work in Australia. That is what we will be doing with MFJ 2.0 and you can read more about why in our article, The case for My First Job 2.0.