Our national disgrace: half our school leavers are not in training

Almost 48% of young school leavers are not in training, a situation that has not improved in five years, shows a new report that looks at unpublished census data from 2006.

Author of the report, demographer Bob Birrell from Monash University, says almost half of 18-20 year olds are not in school, TAFE or university.

While many are in semi skilled jobs, a quarter of those young people not in training are not working at all.

Birrell says that this is a disaster for employers. Most of the jobs growth in Australia is in occupations that require post school credentials, he says.

“What is really arresting though, is that in the last five years there has been no improvement in that figure, despite the skills shortage and the massive boom,” he says. “This shows how adrift we are in dealing with this problem.”

Birrell says there are two large problems contributing to the low take up: not enough places that are accessible and it is too expensive with the youth allowance too hard to get.

Poorer socio-economic areas and those areas further from training facilities had lower rates of training.

Outer suburban areas with higher household incomes also had lower rates of training. “Take Monash University which is the only university that is physically assessable for a large number of people around this area yet there is a very high entry score.”

He says the system is really not working for those who come from a background where the parents did not attend university. “They can’t access the youth allowance because it is means tested in a way that debars most families,” he says.

He says the disparity between training levels and the needs of the economy are now so great, Australia needs a major sea change in its thinking.

He says the labor Party has made some bold statements but we are yet to see the policies. “How many more places are they going to offer? Are they going to make the youth allowance more accessible?” he says.

As for the Coalition, they have had five years to fix the problem which has not improved.

“The public debate is being framed around the fact that we need more trades training with the Prime Minister saying it should be as prestigious as a university degree. But the economy is being restructured in favor of university education: this is where the jobs growth is. If the debate addressed this change it would encourage parents and children to take on higher education,” he says.

He says as things stand, there will be no respite for business owners or the community as Australia faces a lot more skilled shortages right across the board. “We need doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, physiotherapists, accountants, engineers…there are severe shortages across the board with little growth in domestic training.”

He says the trend towards taking on immigrants in skilled work instead of training our own is not an answer. “We need to create an opportunity for our young people so they are set for life and it is also far better to train our own people so they have the experience of what local employers need.”

The report also found that regional Western Australia had the worst training record with 77% of young people not enrolled in any form of education or training. Darwin was also extremely high with youth not in training at 73%, Brisbane had 50%, Sydney at 38%, Melbourne at 34%, Adelaide at 46%, Hobart at 47% and Canberra at 37%.


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