Why I’ve lost hope for our future workforce

For the best part of two decades I’ve been advocating for changes to the way young people are supported in their careers. I’ve delivered dozens of education and labour market programs, I’ve advocated from numerous angles, participated in countless pilot programs, employed numerous young people in my own businesses, brought together people working towards similar goals, invented a jobs app, written goodness knows how many resumes and importantly I’ve walked beside my own three children as they form up their career options.

The further I get down this rabbit hole, the less hope I have that schools and industry will ever be able to work together not only to solve our dire workforce shortages, but also to create smooth school to work transitions and career choices for young people.

Even worse, for kids coming from families with fewer resources and connections I hang my head in shame about how our society and tax funded systems are failing you both in and out of the school environment.

There are people like me across the country stretching themselves between broken bits of systems in the vein hope that we can hold on for just long enough for the system to level up.

But it’s not changing. And like so many of my colleagues, I’m tired.

The fundamental problem as I see it is that we’ve forgotten how to (or we no longer want to) work together as a society. We are operating in heavily guarded silos (or as friend describes them ‘dung heaps’) and we are too busy sticky taping broken bits together in our own areas of responsibility to even think about how the pile of poo next door is faring.

Combine this with red tape, heavy work loads and exhaustion brought on by pandemic, natural disaster and global uncertainty and you have the battery acid that has dissolved any remaining social capital (and dare I say good will?) that used to bind together schools, (thereby kids in these systems), services and industry.

We don’t go out of our way to make opportunities to work together as communities any more.

Of course there is the occasional school-led tick box ‘community engagement’ opportunity accompanied by a happy snap and shared in the school newsletter, pollie pic or gussied up post for social media. But how many real opportunities do you see for communities to sit shoulder to shoulder today? And how are we using these very few activities to build the strength we need in our communities to bridge our biggest challenges? I guarantee you – not many if any.

We cannot go on like this.

Back to careers and young people:

Workplaces are heaving under the pressure of lacking staff with no real hope that people will even want their jobs into the future. Schools struggle to engage kids in the school environment let alone tick the hefty boxes required of a modern education environment and parents worry about what kind of future their kids will have.

And nothing is going to change until someone makes the first move stopping the over used catch cry of today: “that’s not my role”.

The simple fact is that without every stakeholder working together, beyond what is expected, demanded or contractually arranged, simply for the betterment of our young people this IS NOT GOING TO CHANGE – ever.

But who is going to lead this I wonder? What little steps can we take to make change?

I’m pulling together a series of articles that look at career pathways for young people through the lens of the many and varied stakeholders; Parents, schools, employers, supporting services, industry advocates and of course young people. An indulgent project perhaps however one that I do hope can reignite some of the hope I once had for the future of our young people in their career transitions.

If you’d like me to hear your story do get in touch.

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