‘There’s a lack of visibility of a whole workforce available to employers. We need a way to make young people more visible to them.’


Employers are missing out on what young people can bring to their workplaces. Now that so many older workers are demonstrating they want to keep working from home to save commuting and be more available to their families, perhaps there is an even greater need to infuse the workplace with more young people who want to mingle and connect.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, recently stated:

'I know I’m not alone in missing the hum of activity, the energy, creativity and collaboration of our in-person meetings and the sense of community we’ve all built.' (Business Insider Australia (2021). Tim Cook asks Apple employees to come back to the office 3 days a week from September. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com.au/apple-tim-cook-return-office-working-from-home-three-days-2021-6)

Andrea De Almeida, from A.D.A Advisory and convener for the Learning Creates industry prototyping team, reflects:

‘We heard that regional employers are struggling to fill vacancies and that having to recruit and relocate people has its own set of risks. We also heard that a lot of young people feel the need to leave their town or community for more employment options in the city. Our role is to better connect these two groups in a more effective way. We’ve been talking to employers about the value these young people can bring, like local knowledge or local relationships and showcasing our prototype as a way to harness this missed opportunity and build a pipeline with the young people in front of them.’

Sek-loong Tan, a Director and Partner at BCG, also acknowledged that:

‘More diverse teams are more productive and bring more diverse perspectives. We are stronger as a business by being more diverse, but it’s also a responsibility to be more representative. It’s not always easy to build relationships with young people as our style of consulting is built on experience and high intensity. It would have to be in niches.’

The idea of niches in learning, or stackable learning experiences - both inside and outside of the classroom has been explored through Learning Creates' The Learners Journey Project.

While many young people are missing out on the experience of some form of work, often because they are so deep in their final exams and studies, others are missing out on school because they have to work to make ends meet. And yet the skills acquired through these interactions with work rarely count for anything. Many young people don’t have what they need to identify and showcase what they have learned from their interaction with a workplace.

A parent from one of Learning Creates forums comments: ‘My daughter doesn’t know the value in the skills she has that an employer would want to see. Her school doesn’t recognise them so she doesn’t see them as valuable.’

During the engagement for this blog, some of the interviews touched – negatively – on the state of careers advice and counselling in schools. It was said that it too should be more closely aligned with, and exposed to, current and evolving conditions for employers to get a better line of sight from work conditions and opportunities to the way schools prepare young people for the transition into work.

Learning Creates spoke to a student currently home schooling, Sulia who says:

‘I think the curriculum isn’t bad as an idea but we all live in different situations and have different communities and when I think about learning being more adaptive to different lived experiences it becomes more empowering. As a student through home schooling, I get to choose a lot of my teachers and decide when I can work, and design my own work schedule. I think every student would benefit from doing this at least for 6 months to give it a try and discover a renewed sense for what learning is.’

As well as needing to work, a vast number of young people want to work to gain experience or because they want to make a contribution, rather than the financial gains. Many describe navigating a network or peer group is getting increasingly difficult, particularly now that many workplaces are likely to continue with a level working from home or online, due to the pandemic.

Sulia describes her volunteer work, engaging with different groups around climate change issues and notes:

‘When I am looking for the employment pathways, it has been hard to find them. I talk to people and follow a lead, but it would help if unis, institutions and workplaces make alternate pathways more visible. If people saw there are many ways to go to uni or work, they would see what skills and experiences would help support what they are trying to do.’

On top of this, many of the mechanisms and instruments employers need, to recognise and see more of what young people have done or what they are passionate about, are missing.

One employer commented through the Social Lab engagement process:

‘A lot of our young people do casual work - how can we show that too? We currently have a siloed approach. The skills young people are learning in casual work, part time work and volunteering aren’t being embedded or recognised in their education.’

As one teacher noted in a Learning Creates forum: ‘We need better communication between teachers and those running apprenticeships or work experiences - they’re probably learning all these things but they’re not captured because as teachers we can’t see them.’

Sulia comments: ‘It would be great to see more into the different employment markets – to see what you need in the job, the skills you need rather than the qualification. It would also be good to meet people in the industry and be a part of it when you are younger, to make some connections for the future. Employers might want to know what young people think about their industry, what might be putting them off. Why they think they would be good there.’

Jacyl Shaw from GHD describes how important networks are - but notes they need to be present in a more intentional way, for everyone, regardless of whether a young person’s parents have connections or not.

‘There is a perception in some contexts where the idea of networking is tainted somehow - almost transactional. It’s seen as a privilege. But it can and should be something all young people are encouraged to do while they are learning, not something they start thinking about when they finish school. For innovation, networks are about finding people who are different to you, or people who can test your ideas. Networks can flow both ways and benefit business and young people if we start the conversations earlier.’

But not all employers are able to embrace the idea of bringing more young people into their workplaces with ease. There are challenges with some forms of work, including in consulting.

Sek from BCG concludes:

‘It is hard to recruit a 15-18 year old into the core of our business. There are a lack of tools to differentiate people in a scalable way. But the idea of an intermediary could help us find that young person who has had substantial experience solving a complex problem or building a startup. Perhaps there are different pathways we could manage, new programs we could think about, with the role of an intermediary helping to stream capabilities in a scalable way, with the right record and transcripts of what this person has been able to do.’


This article is part of a series Stories about now that was released in our Discussion Paper Shifts and Flows in Learning and Work which explored the changing relationship between employers and young people. You can access the full report here: https://www.learningcreates.org.au/findings/discussion-paper-shifts-and-flows-in-learning-and-work