What I wish I had of known

Laura from BGKLLEN shares her insights on finding work as a young person today. My name is Laura and I am an average young person living in the City of Glen Eira. I was lucky enough to secure full time work this year with the Bayside, Glen Eira, Kingston Local Learning and Employment Network (BGKLLEN), who support young people who are disengaged or are at- risk of disengaging with education to remain in education. Two years on from completing my university degree, I have come to learn that I am one of the lucky few. I am continually learning about the problems facing our young people today, and am shocked to know I went through Secondary School and University both locally, without knowing what the situation was like for many other young people.

Australian’s are great at rallying together to support those in crisis, but are not so great at recognising those in need in our own backyard. I am baffled when I learn there are young people seeking housing support in neighborhoods around me. In 2016 there were 234 accessing supports in Cheltenham. Not only this, we have a youth unemployment rate of 12.2%. It took me two years from completing full time study to find work, and whilst I had set-backs and challenges, for most young people it is taking approximately 4.7 years to obtain full time employment.

Six years ago, sitting in year 12 I wish I had of known that the ATAR was not the be all and end all, and that the real skills needed to get a job in today’s world are not taught in the classroom. They are learnt through real life experiences. Most education institutions are not doing enough to help young people gain them.
I believe education needs to undergo a huge transformation. Schools can be a bit stuck in their ways and not want to adapt to change. In doing this, they are leaving many young people disadvantaged as the world of work modernizes. Perhaps the whole idea of a successful school needs to be reformed. Rather than how many over 90% ATAR’s they achieved, the measure of success could be, how many young people are prepared for work through the skills, networks and experiences they gained whilst in the education system. This would put young people back in the center of education, and better connect them with community and industries. Some schools are challenging the traditional education system by creating curriculum that encourages employment skills through VETis Structured Workplace Learning and School Based Apprenticeships. Perhaps all schools should take a leaf out of their books.
However more and more young people are missing out on access to meaningful education and full time employment; and those in education systems are naively being set up for limiting job options through irrelevant training. The future is looking bleak for our young people, unless the community rally together to ensure young people are engaged in the real world of work and learn relevant skills first hand.

For young people reading this, whether you have finished school or not I would strongly encourage you to get out in your community. Volunteer somewhere where you can do the things you love at the same time. You will grow your networks and gain invaluable skills that employers these days are looking for.
And if you’re like me and want to see real change for young people, follow the Youth Affairs Council Victoria and the Foundations for Young Australians. Both are all about advocating for and supporting young people. You could also contact your council’s youth services and see how you can get involved, or even sit on a board of a youth focused organisation. It has taken me 6 years and a job in the youth sector to figure out that all of these services are right at our fingertips, so I am passing them on to you in the hope it doesn’t take you that long either!
So to my younger self, I wish I had of known that I didn’t need to stress my way through year 12. That for the career I wanted being involved in the community was almost as important as the degree I needed. Finally, to seek help from the multitude of people and organisations around the community who want to help.

Laura Vandersluys
Structured Workplace Learning Coordinator