There is no doubt that older Australians have been hit hardest by the health impacts of COVID-19, but it is, by far, the younger generations that will bear the economic brunt.
According to official figures, there are almost 360,000 fewer jobs than there were 12 months ago, and approximately 937,400 Australians are currently looking for work.
But, with more than 1,500,000 people on JobSeeker benefits (due to end in March), those unemployment numbers are likely to skyrocket in the next few months. And the majority of these people are under 35.
Government initiatives such as the JobMaker scheme and JobTrainer fund will of course help, but so much more needs to be done to support our young people through this difficult period.
Scaffolding for these initiatives that will determine their success is missing. And it needs to be implemented from the moment our young people begin thinking about their working future.
In my experience, career counselling is almost non-existent in many schools. Without a tailored, thoughtful approach to this, how can teenagers begin their careers well?
I’m not suggesting school counsellors are doing a poor job, but that they can do a better one with the aid of technology.
The next step of the career ladder is wobbly at best.
The interview process, whether it be for part-time school and uni jobs or for full-time employment, is one that discriminates against young people and, in many cases, shatters self-worth.
I am hearing stories from many parents of big and small companies alike “ghosting” our young Australians.
For those not familiar with the term, it means, usually once an interview has finished, the interviewee never hears from the company or potential employer again.
No reasons are given as to why the candidate wasn’t successful, no suggestions as to how they could do better next time, no feedback at all, and no closure.
This a bleak situation indeed and can be incredibly damaging for those starting out.
How has this situation evolved? Is it fear of confrontation or lack of care or empathy?
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Why can’t we tell an unsuccessful candidate where they can improve, to set them up for success, instead of leaving them guessing?
What I do know is that technology, particularly artificial intelligence, can play an important role here.
It can ensure that unconscious bias (often directed at young people) is not part of the recruitment process.
It can provide valuable feedback and identify candidate strengths and weaknesses which is hugely valuable to employers and employees.
And it can free humans to do the jobs that AI still can’t.
We owe it to our young people to provide them with the kind support and mentoring that will help them become the future leaders that our country deserves.
This cannot happen without a commitment from the public and private sectors.
Governments need to provide more than just funding. Business needs to provide more than just a rejection email.
Taking the time to treat our young people with respect and provide them with feedback and answers is such a small ask.
It is the most basic of human interactions and the return on investment for society will be enormous.
Technology can aid us with this process but humans need to be the driving force behind it.