How Work Works – LLENs Pioneer Youth-Led Research Into Growing Industries

Across the state, LLENs have been conducting Youth-Led Research into growing industries, facilitated by policy and strategy specialist, Jeanette Pope.

How Work Works (Shepparton) interns present the findings of their research.

How it all started: How Work Works  Loddon Campaspe (2020)

In 2020, right in the middle of the state’s first extended lockdown, nine young interns were trained to survey 26 employers and 250 young people in Loddon Campaspe region. The project was led and facilitated by Jeanette Pope, who you mayrecognise as the director of FYA’s New Work Order Research.

How Work Works came about as a collaboration between 4 adjacent LLENs and was supported by Regional Development Victoria.

The research found that there was a diverse range of entry-level jobs available in the region and despite COVID-19, many industries were actually growing. Some businesses had pivoted to adapt to COVID 19; for example, one business started manufacturing mask making machines to meet the overwhelming demand at the time. The implication of this was that while many young people often think they need to move away from their hometowns to find opportunities for work, this research suggests that young people may actually find some advantage over their city counterparts by seeking work in their region.

When asked if they would be willing to hire a young person, the answer was a resounding “yes”: according to one employer: “It’s not just a responsibility, it’s a delight. Another organisation reported that “young employees are an asset to the workplace – they bring fresh ideas.” According to the employers interviewed, young people make great candidates because they are often open to learning new things and competent with technology.

Another key finding of the research was that young people’s interests were well aligned with the types of jobs on offer. For example, in a survey completed by over 250 young people, one of the most popularly reported interests was “helping people” while the healthcare/social assistance sector has seen the most rapid growth in the region.

Researchers also asked employers what they look for on a CV: the first thing employers reportedly take into consideration is a candidate’s experience. Employers didn’t consider academic results and skills to be less significant, with most willing to train on the job. However, ‘experience’ wasn’t necessarily what some of us may think. It could be community sports, volunteering or babysitting. Employers just wanted to see experience (paid or unpaid) which demonstrated a young person could work as part of a team and commit to something. The research also uncovered new advice for young people on how to look for a job, ace an interview and choose referees.

How Work Work put forward several recommendations. The research called for a commitment to a jobs-first approach in COVID recovery planning to create a pipeline of young workers to growing industries and for the development of a rural careers education model so young people can meet employers early in school.
The research also suggested the widespread development and use of regional jobs information portals, to give real-time local labour market information. And finally, the research also called on our education system to ensure every young person leaves school with a number of micro-credentials and qualifications, such as a driver’s licence, safety training (RSA or white card, for example), a Linked In profile, and basic financial literacy.

Once published, the research was picked up by multiple media sources, with interns having the opportunity to speak about the project on radio and at live events. The research also led to the conception of Youth Takeover, with KLG committing to a 3-year sponsorship of the program.

How Work Works – NELLEN Edition

Hosted this time by North East LLEN and again facilitated by policy and research specialist Jeanette Pope, How Work Works North East engaged five local interns aged 17-25 to investigate employment, workforce development, and industry growth in the region.

Building on the findings of last year’s report, the research expanded into new terrain, highlighting gaps between what young people are being taught to do when job hunting and what local employers are seeking. One intern, Sophia Feeney-Nesire said:” My CV has my subjects and my grades listed. And I’ve just heard from 16 people they don’t really care!”

"My CV has my subjects and my grades listed. And I’ve just heard from 16 people they don’t really care!"
-Sophia Feeney-Nesire, How Work Works Shepparton Intern

Interns heard that to get a job, candidates should tell an employer a bit about who they are and what they are interested in because employers are trying to assess a candidate’s personal attitude and how they may fit in with the existing team.

The research found that work experience is vital but employers will accept a wide range of activities as proof that a young person has started building their soft skills. Such activities could include sport, volunteering, and babysitting. 

Work and community activities have been harder for young people to do over COVID-19, creating a need for schools and communities to think up novel projects and school businesses to help young people gain experience in a professional environment.

The report called for a better-funded careers education model, arguing that students need earlier opportunities to speak to employers from modern and growing industries. 

The findings of the How Work Works research project will be used to inform 10 round table forums between businesses and schools in the Alpine, Indigo, Towong, and Wodonga regions in 2022, workshopping place-based solutions to this issue.

Read the full report here.

How Work Works – GMLLEN Edition

Meanwhile, in Victoria’s Goulburn Murray region,  GMLLEN worked with Jeanette and another 4 young interns to find out what employers considered “work readiness”  in different industries.

Interns interviewed 16 employers from the region to understand the gap between young job seekers and employment opportunities. 

The findings were optimistic: unemployment in Regional Victoria is down to 3.2% and employers told GMLLEN’s interns that there is an abundance of entry-level work available across industries in the region.

The research found that employers were seeking young people to rejuvenate their businesses and were willing to train them. However, in line with other How Work Works regional findings, a gap remains where employers struggle to recruit young people, and young people don’t know where to seek out opportunities.

The report flagged the tendency for careers education to prioritise university pathways, despite large skill shortages in vocational industries. 

Read the full report here.

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