By guest blogger, Peter Luscombe

In my first guest blog I highlighted concern about the number of unemployed youth. One third of unemployed in Australia are aged 15 to 24; an alarming statistic. Now link this to an increasing rate of school-dropouts and all sorts of alarms ring in my mind. To cite today’s newspaper:

A government document obtained by the Melbourne ‘Age’ shows more than 10,000 students in years 9 to 11 disengage from the education and training systems every year. A further 6000 drop out within 12 months of transferring to the vocational education and training (VET) system.

This is in Victoria alone. How high are the statistics across Australia? What I see is a growing number of youths who simply, to cite the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Bernie Geary, have “… disappeared off the education radar …” Have no doubt about these numbers because every student enrolled in the state’s education and training system have an identification number which can be tracked for accurate records. These statistics are real and behind these clinical numbers are real individuals.

Launching yourself into the current job market poses difficulties for those without an education and money behind them. As Tony Nicholson, The Brotherhood of St Laurence’s executive director, says: “… There are large numbers of young people ill-equipped to be employed, and for whom their life chances are curtailed at a very early age …”

We hear from politicians what they think. We hear from government departments what they know and think. We hear from youth and welfare organizations what concerns them. Do we hear from the youth who have disengaged from education? Those who are unemployed? I’m concerned by what ‘voices’ are ‘heard’ and what are not.

One other voice ‘The Age’ did feature today was that of Matthew Reignier. At 22 he seeks re-employment after losing his job in January. Circumstances from one individual to another will differ, however, facing hardship is common amongst our unemployed youth. According to ‘The Age,’ Mathew gets $ 414.00 payment through ‘Youth Allowance’ for each fortnight. That comes to $207.00 per week. Matthew says: “I have absolutely nothing; I am basically broke after you pay everything off.’’

I don’t know Matthew’s qualities, his level of education, what his family’s circumstance are, nor even his favourite colour, however, I do know that he faces hardship and like any of our youth fears matters will get worse. He’s placed on public record that he wants a job. No matter ‘who’ Matthew is within himself, he wants to work and finds gaining employment difficult. It strikes me that more and more hurdles are being set for our youth. From the number of school drop-outs in Victoria alone, I’m concerned about how difficult it is, and will continue to be, for these ‘kids’ to find work.

What are we doing to help our ‘kids’? Are we listening to those who ‘voice’ concern? Are we actually ‘listening’ to our ‘kids’?