Release type: Transcript


Opening Keynote Address to the 7th Annual National Youth Employment Forum


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


Delivered online


Thank you to everyone for being here this morning online at the 7th National Youth Employment Forum and I want to thank Akolade as well for bringing this diverse group of people together.

I want to commend all of you for what you are doing, for your resilience and agility to pivot your services and to continue to meet the needs of youth throughout Australia during this COVID-19 period.

No matter what you are doing here online, what your current role is, we all have one common goal and that is to get Australian youth into employment.

And to everyone in the youth sector, thank you for your commitment to helping young people to succeed. As the Australian Government Assistant Minister for Youth and Employment Services, I share this commitment. 

I am determined to see young people get the support and skills they need to get ahead and to get into the workforce. 

And it is important to me, not just as an Assistant Minister, but as a father and a former small business owner — I ran a small family-owned business up here with about 20 staff before being elected to the federal seat of Petrie in 2013. 

I love my job and I have had a number of jobs.

My first job out of school was at a place up here called Toombul Music, which no longer exists, thanks to iPhones and so forth. The owner of that business was a guy called Barry Bull. He gave me my first job because of the commitment and the discipline that I had shown in a sport. I achieved a black belt in judo and represented Queensland and he said if you can show that commitment and do a sport for 15 years, I know that you will be committed to my business.

A lot of young people have the opportunity to get into the workforce through networking and through training and improving their skills. I am very very happy — as Allegra said earlier — to answer any questions at the end of this if we have got time.

Young people often need help to get the skills or experience they need in competitive labour market. So, when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived we knew that we needed to invest in things to make sure young people were not left behind. Research shows young people are vulnerable during economic downturns – often because of the casualisation of their work, their studying and so forth. 

But we know that COVID-19 has had an impact on the industries that employ large numbers of young people particularly in hospitality and tourism.

And this is now starting to turn around. It was great to see in the latest Labour Force figures a reduction not just in the unemployment rate nationally but the youth unemployment rate down to 10.2 per cent. I actually think that there is a possibility that that will go up again given the current lockdowns in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

But I do certainly believe that as Australia and the vaccine roll-out happens, there will be a high demand for young people in work and for all Australians. I really think that we are in a window right now for the next six months and it is a great opportunity for young people to get into work. Our Government will continue to support young people no matter where they are around Australia so they can be job-ready and be employable. 

We know what employers want and we need to make sure that young people understand what employers want too when hiring because that will give them a distinct advantage when they apply for a job.  

The most recent federal Budget had a real focus on youth, which was very important. We wanted to make sure that youth have the skills that they need in order to ensure that once Covid continues to recover that they will be able to get the results that they need.

The benefits of having a job go well beyond the obvious ones — like having a larger 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. And we know that mental health is really important for young people. Knowing that they have a positive future is so very important — and I want to put on record my thanks to all Australian youth, aged between 15 and 25; thank them for their contribution to Australia.  

Whilst the pandemic threw up challenges and still is it also opened the door to new opportunities for Australian youth. 

Many of you will be familiar with some of the Government programs that support young people to find and keep work. And I’ll briefly go through some of these. But what I really want to share is what I see in action, when I am out and about in the community and I speak with young people, their employers, and training organisations.  

What they might lack in experience, they can make up for in enthusiasm. And the right person can be trained in the workplace with exactly the skills and attitude that they require and what employers require. 

Of course, any business owner has probably also had the experience of hiring someone inexperienced and that is why it is very important that business owners invest in young people to make sure that they are trained properly and get the skills that they need. Some of those skills are learned in the classroom or in the TAFE or wherever else, but some are learned on the job. 

Creating an environment, too, that supports a business to take a chance on hiring young people.

Many of the Government’s youth employment initiatives include this dual focus. Helping young people to improve their employment chances, while supporting businesses to be part of this. And it might just lead to an employer getting the best new worker they’ve ever had. 

It’s why we are extending the Boosting Apprenticeships Commencements wage subsidy, to support businesses and Group Training Organisations to take on new apprentices and trainees, which we know is an important employment pathway for young people. If they can finish their apprenticeship, they can get a job anywhere in Australia. We are seeing apprentices and tradies in very high demand right now. 

The JobTrainer Fund is helping employers with the costs of recruiting and skilling up new workers and offers free or low-fee training places. And while the Commonwealth Scholarships Program for Young Australians has been expanded to support 240 additional scholarships in 10 disadvantaged regions around Australia as well.

For those who are finishing school, there are resources like the School Leavers Information Kit, and the School Leavers Information Service. And career information is also available through the National Careers Institute and the Your Career website. Have a look at that. 

For young people who need additional support there are a range of government workplace services, including jobactive, and the youth-specialist Transition to Work service, which I have had recently the opportunity to visit quite a few around the country. They are doing great great work. Thank you to everyone involved with Transition to Work.

Both jobactive and Transition to Work are really helping young people build their employability skills and connect with employment vacancies and pathway opportunities around Australia. I would just say as well that we are rolling out the Australian Government Jobs Fairs around the country and this Friday we have one in Darwin. So if you are from Darwin or you are in the Northern Territory, try to get young people to the Australian Government Jobs Fair up there.

We are also doing the Youth Jobs PaTH program, where young people are benefiting from Employability Skills Training, which helps them develop the necessary general skills that every workplace needs. And the training is flexible enough to be tailored, so some employers use it to train young people for specific jobs.

Internships done through the Youth Jobs PaTH program give young people a chance to try out a job and get valuable training and experience. And they also give employers the opportunity to trial a young person and see if they are good fit.

We also need to remember what it was like to be starting out. You can have moments of extreme confidence and then moments where you doubt yourself and don’t even know where to start. 

And everyone probably remembers when they first started and you always sometimes want to get to that next stage — wherever that is, but it can be hard to keep motivated and if you’ve been looking for work for months, or a year, with no luck. 

Here’s a great story that demonstrates resilience. 

Nineteen-year-old Trysten completed his Year 10 certificate and had worked in various casual jobs. Luckily, he got registered with an Enterprise Training Company, a Transition to Work provider. And for more than a year, they kept Trysten motivated and connected to other opportunities, including training. They helped him line up a four-week internship with Frizelle’s Automotive, but it only lasted two weeks. 

It wasn’t all bad news though. They were so impressed, that after two weeks they offered him a full-time automotive mechanic apprenticeship, which empowers Trysten to earn money while he learns. So whilst it was only initially a two-week trial, so to speak, because of his enthusiasm he was offered a full-time job. 

Trysten is now in the second year of his apprenticeship and has bought a dream car that he wanted. He says the internship and resulting apprenticeship have changed his life. 

Now that gets me really excited. Hearing young people, having their lives changed. But they are forging their own future. Getting out of bed every morning and looking forward to going to work and looking forward to life every day. 

It is so important that we give a message of hope and thank young people for what they are doing. It makes me pleased when programs like this can help bring together young people and businesses looking for staff. 

In terms of training, it’s also really important to upskill young people in areas where the greatest demand for jobs exists, both now and into the future. I don’t think that we should be putting too much pressure on young people as far as what future jobs may hold. Yes, it is true that young people may have many jobs. And it is also true that some young people may be with an employer for life. You just never know. 

And every young person is different. And when we speak to them, we need to take into account their unique characteristics. And listen to what they are saying. I would also just say as well that the National Skills Commission (NSC), which gathers data on employment trends and skills needs, informs a lot of this work that we are doing.

For any young person wondering where current and future job opportunities lie, look no further than the NSC’s employment projections for the five years through to the end of 2025. Some of the different industries that they are discussing at the moment that will generate almost 65 per cent of the total employment in coming years include: 

  • health care and social assistance — increasing some 250,000 jobs in the next five years, 
  • accommodation and food services — another 140,000 jobs,
  • professional, scientific and technical services another 131,000 jobs 
  • and education and training another 118,000 jobs.

Now I spoke earlier of the importance of the hospitality and tourism industry as a first employer for young people. And a great example of how our Government is working with young people to get the skills that they need. The PaTH Business Placement Partnerships program supports industry groups to run projects that will create career pathways for young people and give them access to job opportunities across sectors that are crying out for staff. 

And I know that in my own electorate of Petrie, just this week I was out and about in the community and came across four businesses that were looking for staff. One was a manufacturer called Tubeworx, that makes tubes for F-35 joint strike fighters. They are looking for a number of jobs right now. There is hospitality work up here as well at a local Italian restaurant called the Rustic Olive and there is also Temper Troops Air Conditioning and Electrical in my electorate, who are looking for employees right now. Now all those industries up here in Queensland were having trouble finding staff. That why I was saying before. It is a great opportunity to pounce right now for those of you that are online in Queensland as well.

The first two projects are up and running and focus on the hospitality and tourism industries. 

Restaurant & Catering Australia and the Accommodation Association of Australia will deliver programs that offer young people short, targeted training and a hands-on internship with the view of landing a real job in the workplaces they’ve trained in. 

Not only will this program create opportunities for hundreds of young people, but employers can receive a wage subsidy of up to $10,000 for employing eligible participants so get on to that. 

These are just some of the ways we’re helping young people to find and keep a job and supporting businesses to hire young workers. 

I encourage everyone online to look at all the programs available and get them connected to services and build their work readiness and confidence. If we can keep building young people up, they have a real shot and that is a very important message. 

As someone who had never had a government job until I was elected as a federal MP, never worked for another politician, it opened my eyes to just how much support there was out there. Because I can tell you that when I was employing people in my own small business, I didn’t know that this government support was there. I didn’t know that I could get a $10,000 wage subsidy for employing a young person, or that jobactive providers would actually shortlist candidates for me. 

So there are a lot of supports out there and I encourage you to connect with those people. We have also got other organisations helping young mums and dads back to work. Like Parents Next and so forth. So if you are a jobactive provider, maybe connect with those services in your region as well. 

Employers often say to me that they have difficulty finding suitable staff – not just for skilled jobs, but for entry level jobs as well. They say to me that they want people who have a great attitude, that are drug and alcohol free when they turn up for work and care about their work when they do it. 

And it might not be your dream job. You might not get the first job that you want when you leave school or finish training. I know that I didn’t. But if you do your best at all the jobs along the way, you will get where you want to go. And so pass that message on for young people as well. 

Once a young person gets a job, the support needs to continue. Employers must offer good induction or onboarding. To help them develop, give them access to the right training. Let them know when they’re doing a good job and putting in the effort. Don’t just have a chat about where they need to improve or highlight what they get wrong. Build them up as well. 

And don’t forget that everyone has a lot going on outside of work. Yes, we need to let people know that they shouldn’t bring that to work. That when they are at work, there are there to work. But balancing this can be really hard for young people who don’t have as much life experience to draw on. 

The best employers are often the ones that have a bit of patience and recognise that their staff are people first and employees second. In my experience, what you put in, will come back to you ten-fold. 

As the Assistant Minister for Youth and Employment Services in the Morrison Government, I am listening to young people and what I hear is that they are seeking to make connections and this is what works for them. So thank you, to everyone online.

So as we emerge from the pandemic, and ensuring they have a greater say and can participate in securing Australia’s recovery and building their future. 

We need to listen first and this way we can match the support needed to ensure success. 

Our Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan and expansion of the headspace network by establishing 30 new services – with 153 services to be nationally available by 2022 will support today’s youth as well and future generations that need that care. 

Young people can have hope, we remain ambitious continue driving down youth unemployment. That is my main focus. Please make it yours. Continuing to drive down youth unemployment. As I said, it may go up again next month when some of the lockdowns that we have seen in Australia. Let’s get youth unemployment down below 10%. It’s currently 10.2%, the lowest that it has been in 12 years, but we can do better. With your help, we are going to help a whole lot of young people in this nation. So thank you for what you are doing and thank you allowing me to speak to you today.