Australian youth unemployment is one of our greatest challenges

We in Australia missed what Americans call “The Great recession”, right? Not exactly.

Not if you’re young, and especially not if you’re young and living in regional or rural Australia.

We have known this for some time.  Earlier this year, the Brotherhood of St Laurence published their report Australia’s Youth Unemployment Hotspots Snapshots, which showed that although there has been improvement in the overall rate of youth unemployment, the national figures mask the reality that clusters of high youth unemployment persist – stubbornly and unevenly – across the country, especially in many rural and regional locations. Their analysis identifies 20 regional areas with high youth unemployment rates:  Mount Isa (reaching 28 percent), Hunter Valley, Wide Bay (QLD), Cairns, southeast Tasmania, Mid North Coast of NSW, Barossa-Yorke (SA), New England and Northwest NSW, Townsville and a large number of others.

All of this has been brought into sharp clarity this past week with the publication of Investing in Youth – Australia by the OECD.  As Greg Jericho writes in The Guardian Australia, “Australia didn’t have a ‘great recession’? Tell that to young people”.

Two sets of figures tell this story: “In March 2008, a record high 65.1% of those aged 15 to 24 were employed. By July 2016, it was just 58.8%. By contrast the fall in the percentage of those employed aged over 25 was just 0.7% points,” Jericho writes.  Adult Australian employment didn’t suffer much, but young person’s employment did.  And here’s the kicker:  young person’s employment figures have not really recovered.

Do these figures concern you?  They should.

It will be just these issues that we at Community Colleges Australia will grapple with when we hold our Annual Conference in Sydney from October 18th to 20th,, with speakers like Dr Tom Calma, Wendy Perry, Jodi Schmidt, Megan Lilly and Professor John Buchanan, drawing from the work of the Foundation for Young Australians.

The community education sector of Australia is in a unique position to address some of these problems.  We educate 200,000 vocational education and training students each year, the majority of them young people.  We are close to our communities.  And we are located in many regional and rural areas of high unemployment.

So join us in Sydney in October to sort out some answers and approaches to these problems.

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