Release type: Speech


National Mental Health Youth Summit


The Hon Luke Howarth MP
Assistant Minister for Youth and Employment Services

It is a pleasure to speak to you all today, for this very important event.

While I am not joining you in person, I am grateful for the opportunity to walk you through some of the initiatives the Australian Government has implemented, to help young Australians into jobs.

As Assistant Minister for Youth and Employment Services, my priority is to help young people get skills and jobs, in areas where the greatest demand for jobs exists. Both now and in the future.

The benefits of a job go beyond the obvious ones like a happier bank balance. 

They can be felt in all aspects of a young person’s life. 

And positively influence everything, from their physical and mental health, to offering more security with things like housing. 

A job can also keep our youth connected to their communities and give them more confidence.

Whether you are an employer, a training provider, a health provider, youth specialist or perhaps a high-school guidance counsellor you share one important goal.

And that is getting the best results with young people. 

To all of those who work with young people, thank you for your commitment, to helping them succeed.

The last 18 months have been some of the most challenging in Australia’s history. And the impact has been felt right across Australia. With increased stress, anxiety and depression in the community.

This is particular true for young Australians who have faced disruptions to their schooling and sporting activities. 

Young people are also more likely to work in industries hard hit by the pandemic. And have been separated from their friends and loved ones such as grandparents. 

Since being sworn in as Assistant Minister late last year, I have met with many young Australians, and been inspired by people who are on the cusp of their working lives. At job fairs across the country that we’ve been running, and in my work on the National Youth Policy Framework. 

While it is encouraging to see Australia’s overall employment rate decline, as we continue to face this global pandemic, we know we need to do more to get youth into work.

As at June this year, the youth unemployment rate stood at 10.2 per cent. The lowest rate recorded since January 2009. But more than double, the general population.

I know from my discussions with young people seeking to begin their adult lives, finding work can often be a somewhat dispiriting experience. 

This is a critical stage of their life and career, and failure to find a job soon after finishing their studies can and does impact on their self-esteem and general mental health. 

We can all play a role in preparing our youth for these greater opportunities, and encourage them. 

The Government is responding with $481.2 million of additional investment in youth employment services, as announced in the 2021-22 Budget.

This funding will go towards expanding initiatives such as our Transition to Work program, which provides intensive, pre-employment support to 15 to 24 year olds, to get work ready and put their best foot forward, with an employer, or to pursue further study.

People like Jack from Gympie in Queensland, who was living in his car and taking medication for anxiety when he first connected with the service.

Every effort was made to get Jack into a men’s shelter or community housing but because of his anxiety, he felt safer in his car. 

His Transition to Work provider reached out to a community housing provider, who in turn advised Jack a studio apartment was available in Gympie.  Great news. 

It was around Christmas time, and Jack told his Transition to Work provider he couldn’t thank this person enough for not giving up on him. Remarkably, Jack also reached a point where he no longer needed medication for his anxiety. 

Jack worked hard in a couple of short-term jobs his provider placed him in once he had a decent place to live, and was recently offered an apprenticeship as a groundskeeper at a golf course.

He is now thriving in his new position, and his employer is extremely happy to have him as part of her team.

We should never give up on anyone.

Our JobTrainer program is making inroads with nearly 163,000 enrolments for courses specialising in areas of identified needs such as health, aged and disability care, IT and trades.

There’s also, additionally, $2.7 billion for boosting apprenticeship commencements. And this allows eligible employers to claim a generous 50 per cent wage subsidy. 50 per cent wage subsidy. Really good. If they hire school leavers and others before 30 September 2021. And we are seeing that being taken up.

Even before COVID, we knew mental health was a key issue facing all young people. And only around half of young people with a mental disorder are accessing services they need. 

We must be there for them, when we become aware, that they do need our help. 

The Morrison government is making a record $2.3 billion investment in critical mental health services, as announced in the 2021-22 budget. 

For things like Headspace across Australia.  More sites.

We can never underestimate a young person’s ability to succeed in a job, when given the right support. 

And each young person is unique, so it is important that they can access and navigate services and programs when they need them. 

The Government’s Gateway Advisory Services use a range of tests to ensure people are the right fit for an apprenticeship.

This includes assessing skills and interests for a range of training pathways and occupations, in face to face or online services.

A  Youth Jobs PaTH internship is another way to help a young person on their journey to the right workplace. This initiative offers a voluntary, structured work placement trial that lasts between 4 and 12 weeks. And Benefits include opportunities for a young person to show employers what they can do. And Importantly, it’s a first step in the door. 

I’m told of a young woman with a history of mental health issues who was keen to work in office administration. 

She was placed in a four-week Jobs PaTH internship with a small construction company in February. This young woman made such a good impression on the family-owned business that it used the Boosting Apprenticeships wage subsidy to take her on as a trainee. 

I understand she is doing really well under the guidance of her new employer, who is also involving her with the design side of the business. I would like to add she is set to achieve a Certificate IV in Business Administration.

It is stories like these, young people making their mark in the world, in Australia, that makes being focused on investing in our youth and bringing hope to young people so worthwhile. 

Youth are our future and a conference like this is a great place to discuss how services can work together and how we can help and encourage young people to develop the knowledge, skills and capacity to be successful, in education in work and in life.  I trust you will find it informative. 

And thank you for your time, and for what you are doing for youth throughout Australia.