With youth unemployment remaining an ongoing issue in Australia, Director of Social Ventures Australia, Justine Height, looks what successful youth employment programs look like in practice in this article that originally appeared in the SVA Quarterly.
Use these 10 fundamental principles to design and evaluate programs to most effectively counter the persistent problem of youth unemployment.
Youth unemployment continues to be a persistent problem in Australia (as well as globally), reaching as high as 28 per cent in some Australian communities.
While the negative effects of unemployment impact all young job seekers, the impact is felt most by young people considered at risk of, or already experiencing, long-term unemployment.
In Australia immediately prior to the 2008 global financial crisis, a young person spent on average 13 weeks looking for work and less than 20 per cent of this group were classified as long-term unemployed. By February 2014 this had increased to an average of 29 weeks spent looking for work and over 55 per cent were classified as long-term unemployed. Many of these young people spent up to 52 weeks looking for employment, more than triple the time prior to 2008.
Fundamental principles of successful programs.
Numerous organisations are working to support at risk young people to transition from education or unemployment into sustainable work.
So what do successful youth employment programs look like in practice? What are the fundamental principles common to effective programs?
To find out, SVA drawing on its experience working in employment, researched national and international organisations implementing best practice programs as well as the documented learnings from governments and the social sector internationally. The research, supported by the Collier Charitable Fund, focused on the approaches that were most successful for 15 to 24 year olds that had been out of employment for 12 months or more. However, it also included successful school to work transitions which support at risk young people. Research results are published in The fundamental principles for youth employment report.
The drivers of unemployment
The research highlighted the underlying drivers or causes of youth unemployment, some of which are felt more strongly by those experiencing multiple barriers. These drivers are classed as structural, societal and personal.
Structurally, the number of appropriate and accessible job vacancies is the most critical factor influencing the number of unemployed young people and the length of time they spend unemployed. However, at a program level, it is difficult to have influence over this level – as it pertains to global, government or institutional structures.
Societal drivers refers to the community within which a young person lives. The prosperity of the community, the educational options available, community organisations, and whether the community is remote, regional or urban are all important. These drivers are heavily influenced by structural factors but are adaptive, flexible and have the potential to be a positive influence for young people.
The personal drivers refer to a young person’s immediate environment: their family, role models and immediate community and tend to shape a young person most strongly.
About the principles
The research identified 10 fundamental principles (see the infographic and Table 1 below). These were mapped into areas relating to the latter two drivers as the successful programs were addressing a defect in one of these.
The principles relate to the personal capabilities and community infrastructure needed to support young people into employment.
Each principle demonstrates the skills and/or supports a young person needs to transition from long-term unemployment into sustainable work.
The “community infrastructure principles” are not co-dependent unlike the “personal principles”. Their relevancy is based on an individual’s life stage and the complexity of the barriers the young person is facing. However, they do reinforce one another.
The principles are:
How to apply the principles in practice
To support the practical application of the principles, a framework for each principle outlines the:
- activities a young person should be engaging in which will nurture the development of the principle
- resourcing and delivery of the principle, including who needs to be administering the activity at different stages of the young person’s career journey and how often they should be exposed to the activity
- indicators that would strongly suggest the skills associated with the principle have been developed in the young person.
The frameworks can be used differently according to the stakeholder needs.
Service delivery organisations, employers, education providers and government can use the frameworks to help design and evaluate programs.
Funders including philanthropy, business and government can use the frameworks as a guide for assessing the effectiveness of programs before an investment is made.
An example of the framework for the Building Aspirations Principle is shown in Table 2.
In the report, a related case study accompanies each framework to demonstrate how the principle is used in action. For example, the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) program incorporates the principles of building aspirations as well as identity, literacy and numeracy capabilities, employability skills, careers management, business partnerships, early intervention and personal support.
Applying these principles in the design and funding of programs will ensure the most effective support for at risk young people.