Australia’s Youth and the Future of Work
Covid-19 has impacted the world of work more than any other event in recent history.
A rising issue in Australia, which has come to the forefront over the past year, is youth employment.
The combination of the health crisis and the resulting economic recession have greatly impacted Australia’s youth.
As the world of work rapidly transforms, Australia will need to address the widening skills gap and ensure young Australians are provided with clear career pathways to enter the workforce.
Youth employment and the impact of Covid-19
At the end of last year, 1 in 3 young people in Australia were either unemployed or underemployed and the economic recession led to an all-time high of 16.4% youth unemployment in June 2020. Early on in the health crisis, youth working in full-time jobs in Australia fell by 10% between February and May 2020. These sobering statistics highlight the vulnerability of youth in the country and illustrate the urgent need to address this issue.
Unsurprisingly, confidence among young people regarding employment is low. A large reason for this is the lack of – or little – job security. As many young Australians work in consumer-facing industries, Covid-19 restrictions combined with the recession have been particularly challenging for this demographic. Faced with financial insecurity and job uncertainty, many have returned home to live, giving them the label of the ‘boomerang generation’. More young Australians are working part time or on a casual basis as the full-time opportunities have shrunk. This again leads to lower job security and can make it difficult to build finances or set out on a desired career path.
The retail, hospitality, and tourism industries have been the most affected over the past year. Travel and social distancing restrictions have meant those working in these industries have faced a high number of redundancies and an uncertain future. This contrasts with industries such as IT and community services, where the demand for talent is growing.
Opportunities for youth entering the workforce
In response to the many young Australians struggling with unemployment and underemployment, organisations and the government are taking steps to improve the situation. Focusing on reskilling and upskilling youth is the priority going forward, to meet employer demands and keep up with the ever-changing world of work.
One of the major issues in youth employment in Australia is the widening skills gap, with 40% of employers unable to find the skilled talent to meet their business needs. The solution, lies in guaranteeing that young people develop the appropriate, demand-led skills. The Global Apprenticeship Network (GAN) is an organisation doing great work support the young people of Australia. With an apprenticeship, young people can acquire relevant skills while earning a wage. Confidence is built, and valuable connections in the industry can be developed. The traditional path of getting a degree to prepare for a career is not the only way to enter the workforce. Apprenticeships and Traineeships build job-ready skills and provide hands-on work experience, especially essential for young people to stand out from the competition.
Last year saw much of our lives shift online. From home-schooling to working remotely, people have had to adapt and develop new skills to succeed. While there have been downsides to this – isolation and a lack of work-life balance for example – there have also been benefits. Online learning is more accessible than ever before. This is a great opportunity for young people, who can upskill or reskill in their desired sector while they are job searching. And this skilling should not be a one-off – continual learning will be crucial to succeed in the future of work. By 2030, 14% of the global workforce will need new skills due to emerging technology. As the working world changes, we must be ready to change with it. By getting job-ready now, young people can set the foundation for continual learning into the future.
Supporting young people for the future of work
FU.SE, an event co-organised by the Adecco Group and Boston Consulting Group, started in 2019. This is part of the Adecco Group’s mission to address skills mismatch, digital transformation, and how to adapt to the future of work. Last year’s FU.SE touched on the issue of youth unemployment, and the massive impact of Covid-19 which has led to the emergence of the “lockdown generation”. Richard Baldwin, an international economics professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, and author of The Globotics Upheaval: Globalization, Robotics, and the Future of Work attended FU.SE Digital 2020. He pointed to the issue of the skills gap and how to address it, saying, “We should not try to guess what the exact jobs of the future will be, rather think about the nature of these jobs and help people prepare for them.”
It was made clear at FU.SE Digital 2020 that young people are uncertain about their future and there is fear that many jobs will become obsolete due to digital transformation. Attendees of the FU.SE workshop emphasized that to address this, organisations should take the initiative to discuss advanced technology in a more accessible manner. Creating clear career paths is essential for those entering the workforce to ensure they feel confident about how their role can change in the future, and what skills can be developed to adapt successfully.
Today’s youth = future workforce
Australia’s youth must be supported by the government and organisations to future-proof them for the world of work. By ensuring opportunities for upskilling, reskilling, and ongoing learning are not only available, but accessible, the skills gap can be narrowed, and young Australians can enter the workforce with confidence. We may not know exactly what the future holds, but we can certainly be ready for the future of work.