Long term support is the key to beating long term unemployment

DSC_2816_small.JPGToday the Brotherhood of St Laurence released a sobering snapshot into the issue of youth unemployment. Youth unemployment is high in disadvantaged communities across the country – and they have called for a new approach to support transitions to employment.

This finding is backed up by the experience we have heard in Western Sydney. The magic mix of local jobs, workplace and community support are rarely there. There are fewer and fewer apprenticeships in the labor market. Too often the jobs on offer are casual, or low skilled. Very rarely do young people from disadvantaged communities get a working start that will lead to a career.

As the Brotherhood’s Executive Director said today “a new approach is needed.” One approach that might work could be the double mentoring strategy – called Working Start – that the Sydney Alliance has pioneered in the housing commission estate in Glebe, and that we are expanding to Granville and Blacktown.

When you talk to young people at Glebe Youth Services, the big issue in employment isn’t simply getting a job. It’s keeping a job. Too frequently in the first 6-12 months of employment something comes up – a personal issue or crisis – the young person doesn’t turn up to work. The employer assumes they are unreliable or not interested. The job disappears. In communities where there isn’t generational experience with employment, this pattern can be frequently repeated. Shifting long term unemployment requires breaking this pattern.

This is what double mentoring is all about. It’s about creating workplace and community mentors that stick around to support young people into jobs, and then support them staying in work for the long haul.

That’s what has been piloted in Glebe. Two young men have transitioned into carpentry apprenticeships at Mirvac. They have been there for 12 months. They have employer mentors onsite and a community mentor off-site. If something comes up – and it has from time to time – there is a team of people who can help solve the problem.

The shift isn’t only retention at work. Change then happens back in the community. In Glebe, these men have become role models, inspiration for others. Success breeds success, and when they talk about their experience in the youth centre or at the local school, they spread a wildfire of aspiration for getting and keeping a good job.

This is what we need in Western Sydney. Sydney Alliance is trying to set this up this double mentoring approach in Granville and in Blacktown. It’s all about partnerships with local employers, training organisations and community organisations. We are keen to partner with others to make this happen.


Amanda Tattersall is the director of the Sydney Alliance. The Alliance is a diverse coalition of 49 religious organisations, unions, schools and community organisations that uses community organising to make Sydney a better place for everyone to live. Twitter @amandatatts

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