Industry experts are warning that young job seekers are having a difficult time finding work, amid soaring unemployment rates.
The unemployment rate unexpectedly jumped in July to 6.4 per cent – its highest level in 12 years.
Young people have been particularly hard-hit, with unemployment for 15-24-year-olds hitting 14.1 per cent – the highest level since October 2001.
The jobless rate for the 15-19-year-old subset jumped even more to 20.4 per cent – the highest since April 1997 – and was 30.1 per cent amongst those looking for full-time work.
“Nationally, youth unemployment is sitting at around 13 to 14 per cent which is as high as we’ve seen it since the beginning of this century,” said Damian Oliver from Sydney University’s Workplace Research Centre.
He said there were several signs the current generation of job seekers was struggling more than previous generations.
“One indication is the proportion of uni degree graduates who are looking for full-time work has shot up to around 25 per cent, which is the highest it’s been for around 25 years,” Mr Oliver said.
He says the Australian labour market has transformed, with a trend toward casual and part-time jobs and fewer opportunities in manufacturing and in the public sector.
Potential fee hikes for tertiary qualifications are another issue for young people.
“The increase in university fees is another contribution to this generation struggling to catch up to the earlier generations,” he said.
“All young people are going to have to think carefully about the cost of study and the debt they’re likely to carry into their post-studying employment.
“It’s a real advantage having a vocational qualification rather than a university qualification at the moment. They’re often cheaper, and lead to much stronger and more reliable labour market outcomes.”
He says the best way an unskilled teenager can get a job is to first gain valuable work experience in their chosen field.
“Work experience is the number one factor employers, regardless of skill level, are looking for today,” he said.
And he warned the Federal Government needed to collaborate with employers to create more opportunities, traineeships and jobs for young people, or see part of the population “lost to the labour market.”
“They’re the people who feel locked out of school or university or TAFE or other training opportunities,” he said.
“It might only be five to 10 per cent, but that’s still a substantial number of young people to deny a future to.”
There are 7,4000 young people looking for work across New South Wales, with particularly high rates in south and south-west Sydney.
Youth worker Sarkis Achmar says youth unemployment is rampant in Bankstown, where one in five young people is currently unemployed.
“It’s a very serious problem at the moment and we’re coming across a lot of young people that are really struggling to find work,” he said.
“If you get one job open up, you get 30 people go for it.”
He says the problem of youth unemployment can quickly spiral into a much bigger problem if young people are not given the right support.
“With the loss of hope because of the constant rejection, the constant not knowing, they end up just hanging around on the streets and they become targeted for a lot of the criminal elements that are out there,” he said.
“So we’ve seen a lot of young girls and boys who get could up in this criminal elements because they are just loitering around with no sense of direction.”
Hayley spent more than a year searching for work around Bankstown. Recently, she managed to land a job as a trainee barista.
“It [was] really hard for me because every employer asked for experience,” she said.
Hayley gained vital work experience at a cafe run by a local youth service.
“I learnt a lot, l learnt how to make sandwich, and salad, coffee,” she said.
“I want to become a social worker.”
Another job seeker, Matthew, is looking for work in the hospitality or the retail sector.
“I’ve been looking for work all this year. What’s it been like? It’s been difficult,” he said.
“I haven’t been for interviews yet but I’ve been handing in resumes.”
After the last youth unemployment crisis in the 1990s, the number of full-time jobs bounced back. But there are fears this will not happen again.
“The worrying signs are this might not happen for this current generation because those fulltime jobs aren’t there in the same numbers,” Mr Oliver said.