Education in Australia: What needs to change to reduce youth unemployment?

One in every two schools in Australia spends just $3 per student on career education, according to the Career Industry Council of Australia. It’s no wonder, then, that our youth unemployment crisis continues. A Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) study found that unemployment in 15-24 year olds remains stubbornly high, standing at 13.5 per cent in March 2017. Meanwhile, those that do manage to get jobs are often in casual or part-time labour, with underemployment among young people reaching a 40-year high this year.
A study by Youth Action suggests schools are a big part of the problem. What needs to change in our education system to reduce youth unemployment in Australia?

Reduce unemployment in Australia

1) Target teaching to skill shortages

While everyday subjects such as Maths, English and Science are all important, it would also be helpful if schools begin teaching lessons directly related to current and future in-demand skills. Research from LinkedIn suggests that the current top in-demand skills in Australia are:

  • Statistical analysis and data mining
  • SEO marketing
  • Middleware and integration software
  • HR benefits and compensation
  • Network and information security
  • Mobile development
  • User interface design
  • Web architecture and development framework
  • Algorithm design
  • Corporate law and governance

Introducing young people to these early on means they’ll be better equipped upon entering the workforce. Re-enforcing the fact that these skills are directly related to future job opportunities may also increase engagement with the subjects and with school more generally.

The majority of the above are tech-based. Teaching these skills will also mean closing the significant talent gap that the Australian tech industry is currently suffering from, as well as reducing the need for foreign workers – an avenue that the changes to the 457 visa have closed off for many businesses.

Many of the top in-demand skills are tech-based, and teaching them in schools would help to close the tech talent gap in Australia.

2) Build active partnerships between schools and employers 

For many years, Talent Rise has been creating meaningful partnerships between schools, youth organisations and employers to make a positive impact through training, job placements and mentoring. Partnerships will increase opportunities for skills-based training. Involving students in the workforce early by setting up work experience opportunities in a variety of industries will also help them to start thinking about their careers from the beginning, and have more of an idea of where they want to go later in life.

A different BSL study released last year highlights the regional disparities in youth unemployment. Rural areas have much higher rates of unemployment than more urban areas. The outback of
Queensland, for example, has a youth unemployment rate of 28.4 per cent. This suggests that partnerships between employers and schools should be particularly focused in more regional areas, where young people often don’t have the same access to education or employment opportunities as their urban peers.

Rural areas suffer from the worst unemployment rates.

3) Encourage entrepreneurship

Those who start businesses play a key role in the economy. Therefore entrepreneurship should be encouraged from an early age. This can cover a range of things, from knowledge in how to start and run a business effectively, to softer skills such as creativity and problem solving – all highly necessary attributes when it comes to starting a business.

Talent Rise is an organisation dedicated to improving Australia’s worsening youth unemployment crisis. We create partnerships, fundraising and sponsorship opportunities, help young people with their CV and job applications, as well as working with employers to provide work experience to as many young people as possible. Together, we will help young people rise up.