The recent shift in the nation's political discourse has sparked a new focus on innovation, education and embracing the disruptions of the future. This debate is timely: Australia's young people are falling behind.
Earlier this year the Foundation for Young Australians released The New Work Order: Ensuring young Australians have skills and experience for jobs of the future not the past. It showed us that the world of work is being disrupted rapidly and that ten years from now the working life of today’s 15 year olds will be different to that of today. Smarter machines will automate jobs, more industries than manufacturing will be affected by global competition, and more people will piece their incomes together from a “portfolio” of activities including self-employment, working for others and engagement in the collaborative economy – often at the same time.
FYA has released our annual Report Card How young people are faring in the transition from school to work and the report finds we are far from adequately preparing young Australians for the jobs of today, let alone the jobs of the future.
This latest data shows that while young people are staying in education longer, it is not improving their outcomes in relation to work.
It is taking them longer to find full time work after full time education – on average 4.7 years (for young people aged 15 to 24). Thirty percent are unemployed or underemployed and this has increased from 25% in 2010.
In addition, many young people are not gaining the enterprise skills they will need for the more complex world of work in the future. While 75% of the jobs of the future will involve Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), and 90% digital literacy, more than a third of 15 year olds are not proficient in science (35%), maths (42%) and digital literacy (35%). In fact, proficiency in maths and science is getting worse and Australia is falling in international ratings.
The situation is significantly worse for young Indigenous Australians.
These issues are not just a problem for individual young people. They are a problem for our nation if our economy is to thrive in the years ahead. As our population ages and retirees begin to outnumber taxpayers, we need to ensure that all young people are contributing. We can’t afford for anyone to be left behind if we truly want our economy to grow and thrive.
At present there is a mismatch between our current education system and young people’s experience of work. We are shortchanging our young people and failing to prepare them for the future world of work.
In the globally competitive marketplace our young people will need to be innovative, creative, technology savvy, problem solving and be able to find and maximize the opportunities generated by the new world of work.
To help prepare them FYA is proposing a national enterprise skills and careers education strategy with four principles:
- Begin early in primary school and build consistently, year on year, throughout high school.
- Be provided in ways that young people want to learn: through experience, immersion and with peer
- Provide accurate information and exposure about where future jobs will exist and the skills to craft and navigate multiple careers
- Engage students, schools, industry and parents in co designing opportunities in and outside the classroom.