Following a welcome by facilitator and economics specialist, Andrew Nadolny, Bishop Bill welcomed attendees and shared his experience working in Western Sydney with vulnerable youth. Bishop Bill noted that youth employment is not an easy issue to address, and part of the cause may be seen as societal. A complex issue, Bishop Bill set the tone for the forum by posing the questions: how do we ensure there are entry level jobs for our youth? What can be done to prepare young people and transition their move into employment? What support do young people need while they are unemployed and their prospects of employment aren't so great?
Following Bishop Bill, Deputy Premier John Barilaro spoke about job outcomes and what society has to teach and share with the youth of today to inspire them. Mr Barilaro focussed on what is being done at a State Government level to tackle the issue of youth employment – pointing to the $2.2 billion skills budget to showcase what’s great about being a tradie to our youth, with the aim of encouraging young people to take up apprenticeships for not only a job, but also a career and lifestyle. Mr Barilaro confirmed the State Government’s commitment to delivering training differently through vocational education, by modernising Tafe to be more aligned with industry and offering other options including more opportunities to learn skills on the job and online.
Hunter Research Foundation’s Lead Economist, Dr Anthea Bill then presented and explained a range of data about youth employment within the region, but also at a national and international level. Dr Bill spoke about local trends with the mining downturn within the region, and also the nation-wide decrease in industries such as agriculture and manufacturing, and the dramatic increase in the services sector, projected to continue for some time. She also noted the youth employment issue consists not only of youth unemployment but also of underemployment, where youth may be employed but not working as many hours as they would like; and how this further complicates the issue.
The last presentation of the forum was Mr Rod Murphy, Director R&R Murphy. Mr Murphy spoke of his personal experience from his very first role as an apprentice, his decision to immigrate to Australia with a young family, and his commitment to building his skills to become a successful business owner today. Having employed a number of apprentices within his business for some years, Mr Murphy also spoke of youth employment from an employer’s perspective and the ongoing commitment required to ensure apprentices do succeed within their chosen industry, and in turn, ensure the ongoing success of the business in an increasingly competitive environment.
While there is no easy answer to the issue of youth employment, the Diocesan Social Justice Council’s forum demonstrated the local appetite to build solutions for our local youth for many years to come.