House Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training – Inquiry into school to work transitions
Opening Statement – Jenny Lambert Australian Chamber – 18 September 2017
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Thank you Chair for this opportunity to reinforce our substantial written submission to this inquiry with a few key points.
Improving the number of successful transitions of young people from school to work or further education is a critically important policy objective, with effort needed in two areas: to address systems that deal with the broad cohort of young people, and the systems that assist those identified “at risk”.
Transitions is an issue with a long history of inquiry and policy and program effort. It is an area that has achieved success but also one littered with programs that have come and gone, at times funding withdrawn for good reason due to poor outcomes, but at others where funding has been withdrawn despite success for political reasons such as a change of government at state or federal level.
This inquiry will hopefully hear some of this evidence, but we believe more can be done to investigate what has worked and then determine how best funding can be applied in support for the long run, as consistency and expertise matters.
To address the broad cohort, our submission highlights the importance of career development and information, as well as apprenticeships and improving job readiness. The evidence clearly shows having young people stay at school longer to complete year 12 has resulted in improved career and life outcomes, but it comes with the downside that overall there are fewer teenagers who have experienced work, despite the numbers who do after school part-time work.
Depending on how long they stay in post-school education, many young people could be reaching their early to mid-twenties with little work experience. This means they are competing with other more experienced adults on a similar pay rate but with a lot less experience. It is very important that at school there are increased opportunities to improve job readiness including ensuring young people acquire the skills expected by modern workplaces.
Apprenticeships and traineeships is also critically important to provide successful transition outcomes. It is very important that the new Skilling Australians Fund, which is an apprenticeship partnership between the Commonwealth and the States, recognises not only the important role of skills development, but also support projects that provide entry level traineeship opportunities for young people leaving school.
It is also essential to enhance the success of fund and more broadly that we increase the effort to raise the awareness amongst young people of the value of VET pathways and apprenticeships, rather than higher education being seen as the main option post-school. For many young people, an apprenticeship provides equivalent career earnings outcomes to higher education qualifications, with many apprenticeships being a strong pathway to running your own business.
This links to the important point we raise in the submission about the need to improve careers advice generally. Young people at school need more than just course advice – they need to know where the jobs of the future will be and have a much better understanding of what their options are.
To address those “at risk” of a poor transition, we support improving employment services, with PaTH an important program. I also today want to highlight the important work of organisations such as the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Beacon Foundation. These types of organisations have long histories of success. This inquiry is not operating in a vacuum. There is a wealth of experience out there. Let young people benefit from this experience.
Thank you and I look forward to participating in the discussion alongside my colleagues in this session.