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FEATURE: YOUTH EMPLOYMENT
them customer service, team work, dealing with a diversity
of people, safety, all those things you wouldn’t learn at school.
It’s not just ‘I’m on the register and that’s all I do’.” Those
who show sufficient capability and motivation might, for
example, undertake a retail traineeship, completing various
modules towards a certificate II in retail services or a certificate
III in retail operations, as well as management development
courses. Doyle says that this year, 4500 staff members are
on the retail traineeship program and typically 65 per cent of
those will go on to management roles at McDonald’s.
As well as the structured training program, Doyle says
motivating staff – of all ages – is about creating a fun place
to work. That includes recognising birthdays and personal
achievements such as fi nishing school, employee of the month
awards and social activities such as a barista competition
between stores or a staff BBQ. “We are aware of the person,
not just the worker,” she says.
One beneficiary of the McDonald’s training program is
Hayley Taylor, 25. She started at the chain as a 14 year old,
working her way up to assistant manager by age 23 with a
certificate III in retail management. Now, she works full
time as a customer service manager at a Brisbane health
club, while fi nishing a business degree at Queensland
University of Technology majoring in HR. She also volunteers
one day a week as a recruitment assistant at Cancer
As part of the AHRI program, Taylor spent a week working
at Credit Union Australia’s Brisbane office. To her surprise, one
area she disliked studying, metrics, was far more enjoyable in
practice. “I’m not a numbers person, I couldn’t stand stats at uni,
but seeing it work in real life was really interesting,” says Taylor,
who was offered a job with CUA at the end of her week but
couldn’t accept for personal reasons.
Even with that background, Taylor is nervously eyeing her
employment prospects when she finishes university mid nex t
year. “I feel it will be quite difficult to get actual HR roles,”
she says. “Uni only teaches you so much and what comes
out of a tex tbook does not always translate to the real world.
You have to be open to every single opportunity.”
If those young and unemployed with a college education are
struggling to fi nd jobs, the journey for disadvantaged youth is
even more of an uphill climb. Mentoring and job placements are
essential, says Roger Antochi, partnerships and events leader for
Whitelion, a not-for-profit working with at-risk youth.
The group partners with businesses across Australia to provide
young people with meaningful work experience and job training
to help them stand on their own.
“We assess their interests, skill sets, training needs, capabilities
regarding mental and physical health and wellbeing and we
facilitate training and find corporate partners to engage with
youth,” Antochi says. “Once we’ve placed a young person, we
support them and link them with a buddy onsite. We provide
training for all mentors as well as support the employer and give
them an understanding of where that youth is coming from.”
A holistic approach to youth employment is also front-of-mind
for organisations such as Save the Children and Hospitality
Education and Training (HEAT). One common denominator
between these groups and others with a youth-employment focus
is the emphasis on work as a means to escape cycles of multi-
generational unemployment or recidivism.
Benefits for businesses of participating in youth employment
programs extend beyond an extra set of hands. Antochi points
to numerous success stories about participants who start in
entry-level positions and work their way towards full-time
employment. “At-risk youth just need to be given an opportunity
to prove themselves and they will achieve a lot,” he says.
It’s no longer just about corporate image – when businesses
engage with not-for-profits and get hands on about giving back,
it becomes a good thing for current employees. “Staff are more
productive because they feel good about giving back. They get
motivated and passionate about what they’re achieving.”
Employing young workers should be seen as an investment
instead of a risk factor, says Antochi. “Companies that don’t
engage youth miss out on opportunities to build a strong future
for their business,” he says.
“Have a look at your business and bring in new people that are
motivated and vibrant. It’s hard to put a price on someone, but
giving someone the chance to prove themselves is priceless.”
At-risk youth have even bigger hurdles to
find work. Rachael Brown on how one
not-for-profit is addressing the problem.
“UNIVERSITY ONLY TEACHES YOU SO
MUCH AND WHAT COMES OUT OF
A TEXTBOOK DOES NOT ALWAYS
TRANSLATE TO THE REAL WORLD”
HAYLEY TAYLOR, STUDENT, QUT
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