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pathways to a fulfilling career

Every young person should have a pathway to independence and jobs they enjoy.

When the Victorian Government surveyed 2,000 young people, employment was the number one issue young Victorians raised as important to them. However, as the Life Patterns survey of young Australians observed, “Difficult transitions to work have become an increasing reality for everyone, not just for those historically labelled as disadvantaged.”

Since 1980, the percentage of young Australians working in full-time jobs has halved. Entry-level jobs are vanishing, due to technology and the closing of local industries. Early school leavers are at particular risk, but anyone can struggle. Nearly 60% of young Australians aged 25 hold a post-school qualification, but 50% of them still can’t secure more than 35 hours of work per week. Part-time and casual jobs usually mean lower earnings, less security, and less professional support. Ten years after leaving school, only 31% of young adults believe they will have a secure, well-paid job in five years.

Meanwhile, young workers are at risk of exploitation – one in five get paid less than minimum wage and only half of young workers are paid proper penalty rates. The retail, fast food and hospitality industries are notorious for wage theft, especially from international students.

Recently, we’ve seen some very welcome commitments in Victoria, including substantial new investment in careers education in schools, free TAFE courses in growth employment areas, and a commitment to criminalise wage theft. However, further action is needed.

For careers education and youth employment initiatives to have the greatest impact, it’s vital that schools and services have the staff and time required, and the opportunity to work flexibly and build on local successes. Rural communities, in particular, often have exceptionally strong commitments to supporting young people, but relatively few qualified staff and many competing demands. We must invest not just in careers 'programs', but in the people and relationships needed to make them work. In this space, the Local Learning and Employment Networks (LLENs) are crucial. LLENs are key partnership brokers and build on strong local knowledge and data; they create coalitions of schools, training providers, employers, services and families to strengthen opportunities for young people.

Careers education and employment initiatives also need to address structural inequalities which place some young people at higher risk. At present, students at highest risk of disadvantage – notably early school leavers – tend to receive the least careers education. Meanwhile, many students with disability do not receive meaningful careers advice or work experience. Young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds face additional barriers to building a career, partly because their families (while eager to support them) often lack the resources, knowledge and contacts to link their children to opportunities in Australia. Students’ aspirations also continue to be limited by narrow notions of 'men’s' and 'women’s' work, and many careers educators struggle to create genuine pathways for young women into growth areas of industry and STEM. Victorian young women are less confident about their career prospects than their male peers, reporting higher concern that they will be held back by things like their ability, health, finances, family responsibilities, discrimination and lack of support.