A fact that every young Australian & their parents need to know

29 June 2018

Catriona Jackson, Chief Executive, Universities Australia

Catriona Jackson 150 x 225.jpgIf there was anything you could do to get a job faster, I'm sure we would all want to know about it.

And here it is.

Earlier this month, the Foundation for Young Australians released a new report about young people and employment.

Deep within its pages were some insights that are a potential game-changer for every young Australian.

New research by AlphaBeta, commissioned by the foundation, found the skills developed through formal education — problem solving, communication and teamwork — can help speed up young people's transition to work by nearly a year and a half.

Yes, you read that correctly.

A great education can fast-track a young person into full-time work 17 months sooner than those without that education edge.

A majority of the young people surveyed said they got those skills during a university degree.

The report says these kinds of skills developed through formal education continue to be "a powerful predictor of long-term job success."

It also found that relevant work experience, particularly in career areas with growing employment opportunities, would also help young people to get into the workplace quicker.

At a time when youth unemployment is such a pressing issue, that is big news.

Instead of this important point, most media reporting focused on the statistic that 50 per cent of 25-year-olds are unable to find full-time work.

While this eye-catching statistic might grab the headlines, it is incorrect.

In fact, other parts of the report show that 85 per cent of 25-year-olds are either working full-time, working part-time, studying, or juggling study and work.

Of the 15 per cent who aren't studying, working or doing a combination of the two, almost one-third are caring for children.

Like so many other things, it's the exact definition that counts here.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics defines unemployment as actively looking for work and available for work – but being unable to get it.

Looking at the 2016 census data through this lens, only six per cent of 25-year-olds are unemployed.

Other labour force data, which draws on a far smaller sample than the census, shows 15 per cent of 25-year-olds would like more to work hours. But many students who juggle study and paid work say they are working more hours than they would like – at a cost to their studies.

Of course, long-term unemployment can have a devastating effect on a person's confidence, physical and mental health as well as their bank balance.

But there is a large difference between a six per cent unemployment rate and a rate of 50 per cent. We can't tackle the challenge of youth unemployment if we're not looking at the right information.

One thing we do know is that entry-level jobs across the economy are declining.

A recent report from the Brotherhood of St Laurence found that since 2006 there's been a 50 per cent reduction in the number of entry-level jobs on offer.

We also know that the surest way to get employed and stay employed has been and remains through getting post-school qualification. That need will only increase as we head into an economy based more on what we think up than what we dig up.

It's true that getting a job after graduation doesn't happen overnight and it can be challenging.

Increasingly though, universities are offering more internships and work placements than ever before, enabling students to work directly with industry partners and propel them quickly into the world of work.

The Government's annual survey of graduates — the largest of its kind — confirms that within four months 70 per cent of graduates are in full-time employment. And this rises to nine-in-ten three years after graduation.

Despite some populist rhetoric, the reality is young Australians do far better financially with a university qualification.

Entering the labour market for the first time is never easy. But with a great education and some key skills, you'll be in employment sooner rather than later.

This article was first published in The Canberra Times on 26 June 2018.