by Peter Luscombe

coin toss


Think for a moment about the two sides of the same coin. Youth employment equates to being skilled and capable for a job with the assumption that work is available. Youth unemployment, however, can mean not being sufficiently skilled or capable for a job with the possible assumption that work is not readily available, which is realistically the current case. Add in the need for experience rather than simply knowledge or qualifications to land a job, and, the conundrum faced by our youth becomes more tangled. Add in what’s called the attrition trap and matters become decidedly more challenging.

Simply stated the attrition trap is when an employer cuts back due to lean times. It’s commonly termed natural attrition. Instead of laying off workers, the employer simply ceases to hire new people. For instance, people who leave aren’t replaced. Over time numbers go down to what the employer sees as an acceptable level to maintain the organization. The trap? Those who seek entry into the job market, want a job, are simply locked out. This is particularly so for our youth.

Ross Gittins’ recent article in ‘The Age,’ clearly indicates the difficulties faced:

Kids complete their education bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, only to discover the world of work doesn’t want them. It might take them a year, even 18 months, to get a proper, full-time job. That can be terribly dispiriting.

It’s common at such times for young people to be caught in a trap where they can’t get a job because they lack experience, but they lack experience because they can’t get a job.

What’s truly astounding is how Australia compares to other major countries with high youth unemployment. Trading Economics currently lists Australia in the high percentile bracket. Only the much beleaguered Euro-economy has higher youth unemployment rates which is to be expected.

Is the youth of Australia unemployable or is there less opportunity for employment?

Rachel Browne, writer for ‘The Sydney Morning Herald,’ in an article – Youth unemployment hits a new high as people locked out of workforce – says:

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that youth joblessness has reached its highest peak since 1998, with 14.2 per cent of 15-24-year-olds looking for work and one in five 15 to 19-year-olds unemployed.

Such of course raises the question – What will give say a ‘leg-up’ to those who want to get a job?

Career advice and coaching is probably the best option. Finding ways to stand-out, to muster your resources, to utilize what you have to your own best interests, and importantly, to be supported in your efforts, is a definitive way for our youth to achieve a job in current difficult work climes.

Rachel Browne in the same article cites a telling comment from Eamon Waterford, director of policy and advocacy lobby group ‘Youth Action:’

Young people are the first to lose their jobs and the last to get them back in a downturn.

They are the easiest ones to lay off because they have less experience and they’re just not as valuable to employers.

Ross Gittins in his article goes on to say that:

The dole has been allowed to fall way below the age pension so that it’s now less than $260 a week for a single adult. The “youth allowance” is even lower.

The future employment and unemployment picture for our youth dims. If you constrain resources in seeking employment. If you limit first entrance opportunity because of lack of experience. If you then lock youth out of employment due to the attrition trap, then it’s no wonder Australia’s youth become dis-spirited. The struggle becomes harder and harder over time.

The leg-up again comes with career advice and coaching. Basically, knowing where the jobs are which is not necessarily a ready resource or skill that our youth have at hand. The Brotherhood of St Laurence’s executive director, Tony Nicholson, says much the same:

First and foremost they need good careers advice. It needs to start much earlier than it does now. There is no point waiting until the last few years of high school. Young people need information on where the jobs are …

I think a good sign-off are the words from a Sydney school leaver, 16-year-old, James Cipollino:

It’s hard to find work when you don’t really know how to get a foot in the door

Most of my friends have really struggled to find work. It’s not easy. They do get frustrated because most employers want someone with a bit of experience but how can you get experience if no one will give you a job?