With Australia’s unemployment rate currently standing at around 6.3%, getting a job for young people without any post-school qualifications, such as a tertiary degree, just becomes all the more difficult.
There’s no doubt that the majority of parents encourage their kids to go on to higher education when they finish school, to gain qualifications that will help boost their chances of getting a job and developing a career.
But the reality is that at a time of relatively high unemployment, it’s the young people who don’t have a degree or some higher qualification, who might struggle to get into the workforce. This applies as much to those studying at a higher education institution as it does to those pursuing an apprenticeship or a traineeship.
Sue Fergusson, a senior manager at the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) in Adelaide, says any young person without post-school qualifications is at a particular disadvantage “and apprenticeships and traineeships are vital stepping stones to getting into employment”.
Fergusson, however, does say that a research report by NCVER towards the end of last year, did indicate that despite a drop-off in the numbers of new apprentices and trainee enrolments, the trend going forward into 2015 is encouraging.
According to Fergusson, while commencements for apprenticeships such as carpenters and plumbers increased in the December quarter last year to around 21,500, it may be too early to predict what might happen over the course of this year.
“Both trades and non-trades have been in a period of decline over the last 12 months or a little bit longer and the December early trend looks like it may have turned the corner and seems to have bottomed out and might now be on the way up. But one quarter is probably not enough to confirm that,” Fergusson cautions.
“But, it looks like there is a trend back to higher numbers,” Fergusson adds.
On unemployment, Fergusson makes the point that the ABS statistics show the rate of young people without a job to be higher than the average unemployment rate across the country.
“So for example, for 15 to 19-year-olds their unemployment rate tends to be about treble, and if you take the large group, 15 to 24-year-olds, in the ABS statistics their unemployment rate tends to be about double the average.”
“There are quite sharp differences across the country in terms of the labour market but the reality is that if the labour market conditions are tight and employers are not putting on many people, young people will bear the brunt of that,” Fergusson stresses.
Fergusson again cites statistics which show that young people with post-school qualifications generally have a lower unemployment rate than the average. And, while their rate of unemployment is lower, they do, however, generally, have higher earnings when they commence a job.
On whether it’s getting any tougher for higher education graduates to get into the workforce now, Fergusson says statistics in the United States show that it is tougher and that the same situation prevails here in Australia.
“The stats certainly indicate that it’s gotten tougher but that masks some significant difference across different types of degrees,” Fergusson says, adding that areas like technology, engineering, maths, and health occupations do better than average.
But, as we know, employers are not just looking for qualifications when they consider a young person for employment in their organisation. Many other factors come into the equation, including their ability to ‘fit’ with the organisation.
Fergusson also reinforces this point.
“With any graduate who might be technically highly competent, employers are still saying they want ‘employability skills’ as well.
“They want people that can work in teams, have good communications skills and are flexible and resilient in the workplace. Those kinds of things are actually very important to employers as well.”
For a young person looking to choose what course of study to pursue, Fergusson has one piece of good advice:
“My advice to a young person, given everything we know, would be to choose something they really like because the reality is that they are going to work in that area for the long haul and they have to be able to keep putting energy into learning on the job in order to succeed in any career.
“So, loving it (a chosen course) is quite important, but you have to remember that whatever degree you do it’s just a way of getting a foot in the door to employment and a particular job.”