The transitions and pathways of young people involves many stakeholder groups, and the views of all stakeholders need to be sought and valued - including those of young people. Consultation with young people can mean better awareness about their lives, illuminating sometimes otherwise unheard stories and experiences. It’s also important, as they can not only articulate their ideas but recommend solutions.
Young people have important and relevant things to say in how programs which affect them should be shaped, developed and delivered. Feedback can lead to an improved understanding of the experiences of young people in their transition from schooling to working, while informing the development of transition programs and support services.
When young people are given a voice on matters which directly affect them, (adult) biases and assumptions can also be tested. There have been many important youth surveys and consultations during recent years, and we highlight several below. .
In 2007 a Report, “Youth Voice: Peer Research into Youth Transitions” was prepared by Peter Kellock from The Asquith Group with support from the members of The Youth Collaboration, in partnership with the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria (YACVic). It involved research conducted at government secondary schools, community VCAL programs, and assorted youth programs.
Among its findings was that knowledge of available local services was limited, and that young people are generally unaware of the various options that are available. This is all exacerbated by the ways in which services are branded and identified by funding sources.
During the second half of 2012, a series of “Shout Out” Youth Summits were held in every State and the Northern Territory. These summits were an opportunity for young people to meet with local decision makers who witnessed young people completing a survey which captured their thoughts and experiences with the Youth Connections program, and with education more generally. These Shout
Outs were also well supported by Federal, State Members of Parliament and by Local Government.
Youth Connections clients that undertook the “Shout Out” survey ranged from age 11 to 30, with 60% of participants aged 14-16. Almost 500 Youth Connections clients (current and exited) took part.
In a survey conducted late 2012 of clients in the federal Youth Connections program, over 1,400 responses were received to a question which allowed respondents to pick as many options relevant to their future. The large number of responses indicated a real sense of aspiration. Whilst the standard education setting was not working for them, they still had aspirations like all other young people to “get a good job”. This is noteworthy, and challenges the stereotype sometimes perpetuated in the public and political arena in relation to young people and employment.
In 2013 the Youth Reference Group (YRG) of YACVic held a forum, “YOUth Untitled”, bringing together over 80 young people from around Victoria (eg representatives from youth-led organisations, politicians, youth workers) to discuss several topics, one of them being secondary education. After the forum the YRG analysed the data created, conducted additional research to further explore the issues, and then published a set of findings and recommendations for the Victorian Government.
We might expect any service or program provided to young people to have a capacity to engage with, and meet the needs of, this cohort. Young people and the youth services sector consistently report that young people are more likely to engage with or respond positively to youth-specific programs; that these programs are best delivered by, or at least supported by youth workers or by those who understand, can engage with and advocate for this cohort.
As obvious as this seems, in practice this doesn’t always happen. Young people who have left school and apply for a government benefit do not see youth workers, but are referred by the Australian Department of Human Services to a contracted employment services provider, seen by an adult not necessarily equipped to engage with them, and only in an office setting, usually by appointment only.
There are and should be differences between services for youth people and those for adults. In services for the former, young people can “look for advice from their peers, take risks and are often limited in their capacity to think about longer term consequences”, all “normal aspects of growth and the development of a person from a child to an adult.” 33 However in an adult service they “are not easily accommodated, with the consequences of non-compliance becoming an impediment to success”. As a Jobs Australia Policy Report states, “young people respond best to a youth specific service … “.
The federal employment services market until recently included specialist youth providers, and there was a time when young unemployed people with barriers to employment could be assisted by specialist youth services. There have been at least two worthy federal programs during the past ten years which have had funding discontinued. The first program was the Jobs Placement Employment Training (JPET for short) which provided intensive case management and outreach to young people with barriers to further training or employment, operated between 2004 and 2009. The second most recent program was Youth Connections, which was funded from 2010 to the end of 2014.
Whilst we welcome in principle the 2015/16 Federal Budget announcement of a Youth Employment Strategy, and an investment in school to work transition programs to help vulnerable young people, we would add that the previous federally funded “Youth Connections” program was actually a capped service, and so “not able to meet all the demands for services, even from those who meet eligibility requirements”.
Whilst we can see contracted employment service providers change (with new tenders or reallocation of business), the same situation has not applied to federally-funded youth programs.
With the commencement of a new federal system (Job Active), there are now questions being asked as to how effectively this system is going to cater to certain cohorts, including young people.
In past research young people have indicated that they would prefer ongoing support relationships to assist with their transition. They would like a more personal form of assistance than that which is frequently available through short-term, ‘outcome-focused’, government-funded services”.