New research released today by The Smith Family shows how leaving school can be a difficult and complicated time for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. It also shows how COVID has made it more difficult and complicated.
The new report includes a survey of more than 1,000 young people who will be in Year 12 in late 2020 and 33 interviews with some of these survey respondents. The same group was surveyed in 2021.
This research looks at what has happened since the group left the school two years ago. It looks at whether they work or study, and what influences their choices and pathways after school.
The good news
The good news is that more young people from low-income families are working or studying after finishing school, from 77% in 2021 to 85% in 2022.
Only 3% were not working, studying, unemployed, volunteering or looking for work in 2022, compared to 5% in 2021.
But 10% of the group did not complete year 12—echoing the national decline in the number of young people who do not finish school.
In recent years, school retention rates have reached record lows.
Impact of COVID
But the study also found that some interviewees pulled out of study and training because they could not afford it. As Kim explains:
“You have a lot of work to do in a row, and you also have placement […]. So you have to think, ‘Can I continue without working for income?'”
This mirrors a wider trend, where students (of all ages) from fields such as teaching, social work and care, say they need income support while doing compulsory unpaid work placements.
The COVID lockdowns have also disrupted young people’s plans and made it difficult for them to start over. One interviewee, Peter, said,
“I need a certain amount of placement to get my Cert II. And, you know there’s COVID […] I never get my hours […] And I moved on […] it’s not really a goal anymore.”
The study also shows young people from poor backgrounds working in menial part-time, low-level jobs (if they can find work). As Mercedes told researchers:
“I was not paid properly. I chased my salary all the time.”
Pedro also spoke about the difficulty of finding a job:
“I put out about 20 resumes a month. No one answered me […] ”
Of those who are employed, 14% work two or more jobs, 37% want to work more hours, and 34% have been looking for a new job in the past four weeks. Common occupations are retail and sales, laboring and other construction, transport, distribution and warehouse roles, and hospitality.
A complex web of factors explains these trends.
Recently, pandemic lockdowns and school closures have affected the mental health of young Australians, who in turn have seen lower school participation and Year 12 completion.
This makes it difficult for young people to get and keep a job and follow studies after school. Of those surveyed, 30% said they had poor mental health. Of this group, 46% said it “always” or “always” has an impact on what other young people want to do.
But even before the pandemic, many public schools did not have enough resources to support older students from poor backgrounds to work. This is a missed opportunity and shows how, thanks to the scarcity of funding, government schools can end up inadvertently increasing the deficit.
There have long been calls to overhaul career education. And the need for it has become even more acute, given the pressures of COVID and declining student mental health.
In the longer term, the job market is changing and this is disproportionately affecting young people. While there is a high demand for retail work, the emphasis is on skilled jobs.
Last year, 60% of total employment growth was in occupations requiring a vocational qualification, compared to 36% in professions requiring a university degree. Meanwhile, vocational education and training continues to be disrupted and needs more funding and focus.
Governments now have many opportunities to listen
The Smith Family’s findings come at a time when governments and policy makers are taking a hard look at how training, employment and education work in Australia.
A federal Parliament inquiry is now looking at the state of vocational education and training, while the Treasury’s employment white paper, due in September, looks at how all Australians can enjoy full employment.
The University of Accord review also looks at making higher education more accessible to people from poor backgrounds.
The Smith Family’s research shows again how young people from disadvantaged backgrounds need more support at school and once they leave.
The continuing impact of the pandemic, along with the rising cost of living, shows how governments need to think carefully about how they support an entire generation as they navigate their way to life after school.
Provided by The Conversation
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Citation: Research tracks precarious work and study among young Australians after Year 12 (2023, July 10) retrieved 11 July 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-07-tracks-young -australians-precarious-year.html
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