City unites to address surging youth unemployment

23 Sep 2020

Local organisations are being encouraged to make a commitment to expand opportunities for young people as youth unemployment approaches 20 per cent.

The Greater Newcastle Youth Employment Charter is an initiative of the City Taskforce aiming to combat the impact of growing youth unemployment exacerbated by COVID-19 while recognising and celebrating the important role of youth in our community.

City of Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said local organisations can play a key role in supporting young people to find and maintain work in these challenging times.

“The local youth unemployment rate has hit 19.8 per cent, well above the state’s 13.5 per cent and now two in five people under the age of 25 are not working the hours they would like to in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie.

“The Hunter has a higher proportion of people aged 15-24 years working in the accommodation, food, retail, arts and recreation services than many other parts of Australia. These industries have been hardest hit by COVID-19.

“Consequently, COVID-19 has had a significant and disproportionate impact on young people, so collectively we must act.”

Organisations across the region can engage with the Charter by making five commitments regarding youth employment, youth training, youth voice, youth support and youth celebration.

Several organisations have already pledged to prioritise professional development opportunities for young people, establish structured mentoring programs, ensure youth are represented in decision-making processes and expand trainee, apprenticeship and graduate positions.

Port of Newcastle CEO Craig Carmody said it was important that the region’s businesses made a commitment to creating opportunities for young people.

“These are challenging times and our youth need opportunities to build technical skills and knowledge so they can contribute to the region’s economic recovery and long-term prosperity. Port of Newcastle is already working to play its part today, through initiatives like our Indigenous STEM scholarship, while also pursuing plans to grow and diversify in order to create many more direct and indirect employment opportunities for future generations,” Mr Carmody said.

“Our vision is that youth trained in STEM disciplines can look forward to local, highly technical roles requiring years of training and attracting higher wages – these roles could be working directly at the new Multi-purpose Deepwater Terminal or in any of the many associated businesses and operators spawned from its operation.”

The University of Newcastle Hunter Research Foundation’s Lead Economist Dr Anthea Bill, who provides local employment research insights to the City Taskforce, said COVID-19 has caused disruption at a vulnerable time for young people as they transition between education and work.

“Young people are more vulnerable in the labour market because they have shorter work histories and less acquired skills and qualifications. They are also more likely to work in jobs which are casual and therefore more likely to have hours cut when an economic downturn hits,” Dr Bill said.

“That is what makes affirmative action like the Youth Unemployment Charter all the more crucial.”

All Greater Newcastle organisations are encouraged to sign the Youth Employment Charter.