Youth Unemployment: How Vocational Education and Training Can Help Reverse the Trend
Of the many negative impacts COVID-19 has had on the Australian economy, perhaps one of the worst is the effect it had on the already precarious Youth Unemployment rate.
This has had several knock-on effects, including forcing many young people to move back home with their parents, rely on part-time and casual work, dip into their savings and super funds, and change careers.
Here, we take a look into what has happened with youth unemployment and the role Vocational Education and Training (VET) will play in getting young people back on track.
Prior to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, youth unemployment was high. This was largely due to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008, as well as other factors.
The COVID recession introduced different challenges and complexities, compared to the GFC. This is mainly because the sectors hit the hardest, including Hospitality, Food Service and Accommodation, are disproportionately held by young people.
Another factor that had an influence on how young people were positioned heading into the pandemic is a long term trend that has seen strong employment growth in highly skilled occupations (ie. jobs requiring a bachelors degree or higher). These jobs have accounted for 45% of total employment growth over the last 30 years, while jobs that require secondary education or a Certificate I qualification account for only 9.4%.
Educational Marginalisation, the severe and persistent disadvantage rooted in underlying social inequalities, also played a part. Trends have identified declining participation in education and training amongst the most disadvantaged young people; those from the lowest socio-economic backgrounds. This, coupled with the social stratification of school completion has left many young people behind.
Despite the increasing diversification of training options in senior school, completion is still very strongly related to social backgrounds and location, with a 10% variation in school completion rates between high and low socio-economic backgrounds.
The Latest Stats
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), young unemployed people are defined as a subgroup of the unemployed, which is generally referred to as young people aged 15 to 24 years. However, this may apply to any age cohort within the span and may vary depending on the schooling structure and retention of young people in education.
Since the beginning of 2020 youth unemployment has been in a state of emergency. The severe impact that COVID-19 had on the hospitality industry created a catastrophe out of what was already an ongoing problem.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that:
- In 2020 Youth Unemployment has rose to 15.6%.
- At the end of 2020, one in three young people in Australia were unemployed or under-employed.
- As of May 2021, Youth Unemployment has remained low at 10.7%
This has meant that many young people have had to change careers and take the necessary steps to find work in an entirely new industry.
How VET Can Help
The long term issue and recent crisis of youth unemployment will require a well thought out and structured approach from all levels of government and will likely require a long term strategy. However, there are still opportunities for young people to improve their chances of finding and securing employment. This is where VET comes in, both in the short and long term.
1. “UpSkill” With Vocational Courses
Many who found themselves out of work realised that they would need to pivot to a new industry in order to find long-term, gainful employment. However, many of the in-demand roles require specific industry knowledge and training, think IT, healthcare, education, and trades.
This means one thing: back to school!
Due to the ebb and flow of lockdowns though, many require flexibility and online learning has proven to be an effective method of learning with good employment outcomes.
The demand for flexible digital learning options continues to grow as people undertake microcredentials, which are typically smaller units, to enhance their skills in rapidly changing industries.
2. VET in Schools (VETiS)
For a more long-term approach to solving the youth employment issue, VETiS offers young people the chance to be exposed to and get a taste for different types of work.
In the NCVER podcast VET’s role in youth unemployment recovery, Kira Clarke, Senior Research Fellow at the Brotherhood of St Laurence described the benefit of VET in schools as “a stepping stone to further education and training post-school.” She explained VET would likely be more successful when incorporated into the larger picture than simply thought of as a “ticket directly to a job“.
For those who have been educationally marginalised, this is particularly important. It’s not enough to simply offer training and be done with it, there needs to be specialised intervention. This needs to include a structured and clear pathway to help young people on the path to success. That may involve combining different resources to bring it all together including training, educational support and individualised career counselling from industry experts.
3. Workplace Training
Apprenticeships and Traineeships have very strong employment outcomes in the give and take relationship, but they’re not the only models that work.
Internships, work placements and even work experience roles have been shown to lead to higher employment outcomes.
This may be partly because the individuals who gain this type of experience are building a work history and a sense of occupational identity while developing the required skills and knowledge in context, and getting a clear understanding of what employers are looking for. Even if it doesn’t immediately lead to a job, it may make them more employable as they look for work in the future.
Given these 3 options, it’s clear to see how important VET is for closing the gap on Youth Unemployment. It’s a complicated, multifaceted issue that will require an all hands on deck approach, but one that Vocational Education and Training can definitely play a part in supporting positive outcomes.
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