Improving the youth employment outlook in post-pandemic Australia

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    By Alyssa Bennett - Chief Operating Officer

Although Australia continues to experience low unemployment, youth unemployment remains an issue in many parts of the country. Unemployment amongst young people sits at 7.8% compared to a 3.5% general rate, according to May 2023 ABS data.

While youth unemployment has been an issue for some time, the COVID-19 pandemic brought it to the surface. In fact, youth comprised 14% of the Australian workforce in 2020 but accounted for 39% of pandemic-related job losses.

With the casualisation of work and the rise of the gig economy, it’s critical to ask ourselves how we can prepare younger generations for secure work.

In my opinion, we already have an excellent mechanism – apprenticeships. Here’s why apprenticeships could solve many of Australia’s youth employment pain points.


Apprenticeships are a true career pathway

Unlike most other forms of study, apprentices are employed and earning from the very beginning. Apprentices don’t just learn their craft. They build lifelong workplace skills, from commitment and punctuality to communication and being part of a team.

Importantly, they do so in a structured way. They aren’t simply thrown into the workforce at the completion of their studies. Instead, they have mentors and supporters at work and in their studies, so they have channels to reach out to with questions or challenges along the way.

Apprenticeship careers offer nationwide opportunities 

In this era of rising rents and housing crises, particularly in our metropolitan areas, apprenticeship careers offer more flexibility in where you live and work.

Demand for qualified workers in trades, hospitality, hairdressing and other apprenticeship fields abounds across the country. On completion, apprentices aren’t limited to our cities and surrounds. They can take their nationally recognised qualification and secure work in outer suburbs, regional areas and coastal tourist towns.  

Apprenticeships are a great entry point to sustainable self-employment

The swift rise of the gig economy indicates that younger generations are looking for flexibility and perhaps have a greater appetite for self-employment than those who went before. And apprenticeship careers are a great way to build towards this goal. In fact, in construction, a key apprenticeship industry, 62.7% work for themselves. So apprenticeships are a perfect start for those with entrepreneurial dreams. 

Many apprenticeship industries have excellent job prospects  

It’s no secret that Australia is in the midst of a skills shortage, and many of the occupations in high demand are apprenticeship careers. The National Skills Needs List highlights more than 60 such trades where demand is outstripping supply.

Undertaking an apprenticeship in one of these fields will likely lead to extensive job opportunities now and the promise of an ongoing positive outlook. Additionally, supply shortages can lead to wage increases, even at a time when wages are stagnating in other fields.

So, the big question is, how can we encourage more young people to consider apprenticeships?

Awareness is an important puzzle piece

The most critical step, in my opinion, is to increase awareness. It’s not unusual for students to report not hearing about apprenticeships in career guidance programs or even at home. And it’s an even more prominent issue for our female students. This leads me to think that the old stigmas about apprenticeships being ‘jobs for the boys’ and a poor cousin to university occupations linger.

It simply doesn’t make sense. Apprenticeships have so many benefits, and the game has changed significantly. More and more women are embarking on successful trade careers. And the trades themselves have changed too.

Many trades that were primarily manual twenty years ago now have STEM and even increasing artificial intelligence aspects, so they should be attractive to an even wider range of students and HSC graduates. However, the opposite is proving to be true in many industries, such as automotive mechanics, where we continue to face mounting skills shortages.

To give our apprentices a head start, we have an excellent program in NSW – the School-Based Apprenticeship. However, in my opinion, it remains underused. The program has seen some great outcomes and can be an excellent vehicle to keep young people in school while helping them get started on a career path.

Whether school-based or traditional, there are some fantastic government initiatives to encourage young people into apprenticeships – and this is something that is only set to grow. And now it’s time for the next piece of the puzzle – more awareness.

Let’s talk about apprenticeships

By providing practical skills and experience, leading to higher earning potential, offering a clear career path, and benefiting the economy, apprenticeships are an attractive option for young people entering the workforce.

If more educators and parents can get behind talking about apprenticeships in career discussions, we can help more young people access these opportunities and build lifelong careers. And in doing so, potentially address mounting skills shortages and give a boost to the economy.

If you are a parent or educator wanting to find out more about apprenticeships, contact VERTO’s Apprenticeships Team. Or if you are thinking about an apprenticeship yourself, check out VERTO’s CareerGate tool. It matches you to potential apprenticeships based on your interests, and can even help you find vacancies in your local area.