I remember what it was to be young and unemployed; to be spending all my money on posting out résumés to companies that never even bothered to acknowledge them.
Yes, we still used the post then.
There was the sting of rejection for jobs because I didn’t have any experience, yet there was no way I could get that experience.
As the unemployment rate broke through 10 per cent, talented university graduates fought to be taxi drivers or to carry bricks on building sites and parents worried about the “lost generation”.
People were concerned that young people would be so discouraged by a long period of unemployment that they would never get a toehold into a good career and that festering resentment would culminate in the kind of social disruption that Britain experienced during its season of riots in the early 1980s.
The youth unemployment rate in this country reached 18.3 per cent in 1983.
Today, while adult unemployment is at a still-reasonable level of 5.4 per cent, it is a different story for our young people.
A total 16.8 per cent of young Australians are out of work and coming to terms with the idea that they may never be able to afford to buy their own home.
In 1980, before greed got to be good, people needed around 15 to 20 per cent of their personal income to service home loans. Today, they have to set aside 32 per cent.
CEO of recruitment company the Adecco Group, Jeff Doyle, says he is concerned that the youth unemployment rate is reaching levels where it is becoming a “looming social issue”.
Youth unemployment around the world is at crisis level.Source: Jeff Doyle, Adecco Group
“You have these periods [of sustained youth unemployment] and you start to see extreme politics come into play – on both sides, left and right,” he says.
When almost 17 per cent of young people are out of work, that is three times the adult rate. “It is getting up to a level where it starts to get a bit worrying,” he says.
Doyle says that while there are masses of young people unable to get a job, it is still very difficult to fill jobs in certain skilled areas, which means that the education system is not training people for the areas they are most needed.
Despite what the federal government has been alleging about misuse of the 457 visa system – which brings skilled workers into the country – Doyle says there are skill gaps in the areas of engineering, science and research, healthcare, sales and marketing, IT and project management.
“Kids are going into uni to study whatever they want and they are studying things they are passionate about, which is a good thing – but are we producing what business needs?
“Are they actually job ready?”
Doyle says young people often think they should go to university even if they would be happier learning a trade. Getting a degree is not the only pathway to success, he says.
“Our global chief financial officer is 35 and he left school at 16 to join Deutsche Bank,” says Doyle. The CFO, Dominik de Daniel, completed vocational studies at the Bankakademie and won the Swiss CFO of the Year award by the CFO Forum in January.