With high youth unemployment rates at a crisis level in many parts of the world, some see the situation as a ticking time bomb. Others worry we're losing an entire generation that wants to contribute value to society, but can't seem to find a way. Public and private sector leaders alike have signaled their desire to right the situation -- but how? We've rounded up several initiatives worth keeping an eye on. – Liz Enbysk
Young people in Australia and New Zealand have been hit hard by the jobs crisis. In March, the youth unemployment rate in Brisbane jumped to 15.7% -- the highest rate in 17 years, according to the Courier-Mail. And in Lower Hutt, located in the Wellington region of New Zealand, unemployment among those 18 to 24 has reached 20%, The Dominion Post reports.
Devastating to feel valueless
Mayor Bob Pysent of Cessnock in New South Wales, Australia, says it's devastating to young people to feel valueless to society. "It causes social problems, but it also decreases the vibrancy in our community," he told SBS Australia.
Jane Holdsworth, Economic Development Manager at Cessnock City Council, painted an even grimmer picture. She says parents don't know what's happening with their children. Youth unemployment in the Hunter Valley where Cessnock is located reached 21% in 2015, SBS reports, the highest rate in New South Wales and fourth highest in Australia.
"It's a whole generation we're losing here, a whole generation who are committing suicide," Holdsworth said. "They're depressed. They don't know what to do."
So the Cessnock council decided there was something it could do.
The council launched its Youth First Project at a local visitor center where it provides hands-on training to young people so they have skills to land jobs in the hospitality, wine-tasting and tourism sectors, all core to the region.
The number of trainees the program can currently serve are small – but the success rate is 80%. Holdsworth is seeking funding from state and federal governments to support more community-led programs like the one in Cessnock. She says with support, if every council in Australia put in 20 young kids and got them a job at the end of the year, it would create over 14,000 to 15,000 annually.
Improving skills in Telangana
In Telangana in southern India, the government established the Telangana Academy for Skill and Knowledge (TASK) in 2015 to enhance the employability of young people. Prior to its formation, according to TASK, a small percentage of youth graduating out of colleges were securing jobs and the rest struggled to make their mark due to lack of skills.
TASK launched a series of Finishing Schools where unemployed youth spend 8 to 12 weeks focused on learning technology skills based on industry needs. Earlier this month TASK announced it had completed 26 Finishing School batches in Telangana with an average success rate of 50% overall in placing the students in various jobs.
TASK CEO Sujiv Nair suggested the Finishing School concept "has made a humble beginning towards creating hope for unemployed youth through skilling."
Corporate world joins in
The recent first-ever Dallas Opportunity Fair, more than 30 national employers were prepared to offer 1,700 jobs on the spot to “disconnected” young people ages 16 to 24, according to KERA News.
“This would be young adults, who have graduated or not graduated high school, who have moved into a job maybe once, but not stuck, with no career path,” said Laurie Larrea, president of Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas in the KERA piece. “And they tend to fall into a group of ‘what else can I do?’ They lose hope and they fall away.”
The report suggests the job fair included a range of employers -- “a Starbucks station teaching aspiring baristas the art of a latte. Macy’s employees showed folks how to tie a tie, and LinkedIn took free headshots and helped create online profiles.” There were also application and resume building stations and practice interviews.
“These young people arrive, often having been told that they are not ready to work and that they’re not even hirable. We reject that,” said John Kelly, senior vice president of global social impact and public policy for Starbucks, which leads the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, a coalition of employers and social service agencies working to end youth employment. It hosted the Dallas event and previous ones in Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Seattle.
“This isn’t a career fair. This is literally a job fair, where they go in and they interview, and many of them will walk out with one or two job offers,” Kelly told KERA. “And that’s transformative to a kid or a young person who has been told they’re not hirable.”
Meanwhile in South Africa, following a report that 58% of the country’s14.6 million unemployed are between the ages of 15 and 35, leading corporations stepped up to create more than 300,000 jobs annually through the Youth Employment Services (YES) initiative.
“Just about two-thirds of our population is less than 35 years of age and normally that would be an asset for any country,” Ryan Ravens, CEO of business leadership organization Accelerate Cape Town. said in an eNCA.com article. “But 58% of that demographic is unemployed; that's a significant part of our human capital.”
The goal of YES is to give young people the opportunity to experience the world of work, notes eNCA.com. They won’t be permanent jobs, but they will pay an average of R3,500 a month.
More interesting approaches
Here’s a quick look at a few more efforts to get young people working.
- Scotland’s Street League is a sport and employability charity that uses sport as a vehicle to give young people the skills to turn their lives around. As Dougie Stevenson, the organization’s managing director, told insider.uk.co, “Enabling someone to enter the world of work to become an active and economic citizen is a socially just and moral endeavor. Enabling 1,024 young Scots to enter employment and education last year sets the type of standard we wish to achieve year on year at Street League.”
- Evanston provides transportation – a barrier to employment for many young people – as part of the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program, expected to employ at least 600 youth this summer. “Evanston’s City Council is dedicated to providing whatever service is needed so that there are no barriers if there are people -- specifically youth who are dedicated to bettering their lives -- getting jobs and giving back to the community,” Porschia Davis, the city’s youth and young adult program coordinator, told the Daily Northwestern.
- The Yolobe app – described as a LinkedIn for young people – connects students and recent grads with employers and training opportunities they might otherwise miss. "There are actually plentiful opportunities, but youth don't know about them," Yolobe CEO and Co-founder David Douglas told the Chicago Tribune. He maintains it’s a connection shortage, not a job shortage, that keeps so many young people out of the workforce.
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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.
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