Think HBR

Group Training – a solution that works for youth unemployment

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With debate heating up over solving the Hunter’s low youth employment rates, it’s possible the answer for improving our future could be found in our history.
It was reported in the Newcastle Herald recently that the jobless rate among those aged 15 to 19 in the Newcastle district stood at 32.6%, or 6.3% above the NSW average, in December last year.*
Lack of training was one of the reasons given for the low unemployment rates with Cec Shevels, Chief Executive of Samaritans Foundation, commenting that if young people do not have some form of training post-school, their employment options are severely limited. We could not agree more with Mr Shevels. To skill the local youth and take aim at the region’s rising youth unemployment rates, we need two crucial elements.
Firstly, we need willing and able young workers keen to take up training options including apprenticeships or traineeships in a range of areas where we know skill shortages exist. This is an element we have in abundance. In recent years when advertising highly-sought after jobs, it has not been unusual for HVTC to receive over 1000 applications for a single job. Each time, that’s 999 young Hunter locals who miss out and must continue on their search.
Secondly, creating the demand and opportunity for training our youth means increasing business and industry confidence and capacity to provide training and employment opportunities.
The fact we have such high youth unemployment in a country with well-documented skills shortages, is what seems to have everyone scratching their collective head.
The slowdown in economic conditions with resultant job shedding, particularly in the Hunter, has certainly played a key part. In terms of possible solutions, any targeted incentives to business that Government can provide would be welcome. Part of the answer is to ensure Government support is targeted to training that links directly with employment outcomes. This requires skills training to be tailored to meet business and industry’s changing employment needs for now and the future. Another part of the answer to improving demand could be as simple as looking back 30 years, to when and why Australia’s Group Training model was first developed. Group Training was established in the early 1980s by industry leaders in partnership with government to address concerns about emerging skill shortages and the then high youth unemployment rates. Sound familiar?
Group Training Organisations (GTOs), such as HVTC, recruit and employ apprentices and then place them with one or more host employers for the duration of their skills training, easing the employment burden on individual businesses and preparing the way for real employment outcomes.
With Australia, and the Hunter in particular, facing a similar scenario today why can’t Group Training once again be an integral part of the solution? Australia’s Group Training network encompasses around 150 group training organisations that provide young people with direct links to employment and skills training. These organisations are largely not-for-profit based and collectively, employ around 35,000 apprentices and trainees and have connections with more than 100,000 businesses. The Federal Government and many of the State Governments provide support to the GTOs through the Joint Group Training Funding scheme, which is greatly welcomed. Disappointingly, the NSW Government withdrew support for its scheme in 2012.
The Group Training employment model has been delivering skilled workers for business and industry for the past 30 years, so maybe it’s time to take what works and further support Group Training. In doing this, we ensure our youth obtain the skills training needed for real employment outcomes.
* Labour force figures from the federal Department of Employment.
HVTC Sharon Smith Sharon Smith

Sharon Smith is CEO of HVTC (Hunter Valley Training Company). She has over 20 years experience as a senior executive in the utilities, regional development and private sectors. More recently, Sharon led HVTC through its next growth phase, which included a relocation to the $5 million purpose built facility at Rutherford.