ROBUST PANEL DISCUSSION: Back row (L-R): Jane Laverty, NSW Business Chamber Northern Rivers, Helen Willoughby Southern Cross University, and Vaughan McDonald Richmond Valley Council. Seated : Elias Johnson, Youth Mentor and Agent of Change, Holley Somerville Knott, Tell Someone Who Cares , Jan Owen Foundation for Young Australians and Mark McCrindle, McCrindle Research.
ROBUST PANEL DISCUSSION: Back row (L-R): Jane Laverty, NSW Business Chamber Northern Rivers, Helen Willoughby Southern Cross University, and Vaughan McDonald Richmond Valley Council. Seated : Elias Johnson, Youth Mentor and Agent of Change, Holley Somerville Knott, Tell Someone Who Cares , Jan Owen Foundation for Young Australians and Mark McCrindle, McCrindle Research. Paul Tuthill Photography

Summit offers solutions for youth employment

THE Northern Rivers Thinking Differently Summit was a true melding of the minds of those with the power to shift and shape the progression of youth employment and business innovation in the region.

More than 140 of the region's business leaders united at Ballina RSL yesterday to take a design thinking approach to finding solutions to the challenges a 'next economy' workforce is facing.

Led by the NSW Business Chamber and with support funding from all three levels of government and industry stakeholders, key note speaker Mark McCrindle said a forum like this was "needed" for the region.

"It's a pretty innovative day to get educators, employers, policy makers, researchers and young people together to create a better future for young people," he said.

"We've got low unemployment nationally but high youth unemployment in the region and high underemployment - it's well above the state average in the wider Northern Rivers area."

The latest ABS data, (2017) show 17 percent of young people are unemployed on the Northern Rivers, not including underemployed young people.

"It's a growth area population wise, well-resourced with a variety of industries and educations, but it's a matter of joining all those opportunities together and that's what today is all about," Mr McCrindle said.

"The focus is how can we create small businesses, vibrant employment hubs and trades skills opportunities so we can retain young people."

Summit participant and Director of Hurford Harwood, Lismore said he gained many insights from the Summit's speakers, panel and 'design approach' workshops.

 

Director of Hurford Harwood, Lismore  participates in a 'design thinking' approach workshop at The Northern Rivers Thinking Differently Summit at Ballina RSL.
Director of Hurford Harwood, Lismore participates in a 'design thinking' approach workshop at The Northern Rivers Thinking Differently Summit at Ballina RSL. Francis Witsenhuysen

"It's fantastic that so many high profile local businesses together to collaborate and look at ways we can better engage with young people and create the sort of jobs and economy that encourages them to get meaningful employment here and stay in the region," Mr Hurford said.

"I gained better insight into the way young people think and what they are looking for from the workplace... we may have to re-engineer training and our approach to work in a way that's going better connect with what young people are expecting in the future.

"As businesses, if we are not able to engage with our new workforce we are doomed to fail, so we must find ways to work with our next generation so we can plan for our future.

"The standard of the day was exceptional."

 

Foundation for Young Australians CEO Jan Owen said the summit was vital to the region because there was more educated young people in the history of Australia that are not getting the proper pathways to jobs.

"Forums like this that bring employers with educators, students and parents, employers are so important because we need to do is build these pathways," Ms Owen said.

She said 50 per cent of Australians can't get work in the areas they've worked and studied in.

"The expectations of employees, is not the reality, the workforce is changing so much, even with a uni degree, mostly we think its got a two year shelf life.

"Employers need to think differently about employees."

She said employers were looking for employees with a broader skill-set.

"Our researchers are looking for people with great digital skills, people with innovation, collaboration and critical thinking skills because they want this transferable skill-set that you can take to any job, not just technical skills.

"The single biggest change in the workforce is having a profession or technical skill is not going to enhance your ability to get a job.

"Forums like these get us thinking about what is the what are the future focused industries here, what can we be working on now, how can we work together to create that?

"How can we create pathways for young people from school into those jobs."

The Summit included the launch of the Northern Rivers Young Entrepreneurs Fund, an inaugural program to support the development of concepts and solutions that can value add to existing businesses or enable new start-ups. 

For more information on the fund contact Mrs Laverty on jane.laverty@nswbc.com.au.



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