Shepparton has second highest youth unemployment in Victoria

By Thomas Moir

The Shepparton region has the second highest youth unemployment in Victoria, at 17.5 per cent, according to a Brotherhood of St Laurence report.

The area encompassed, which includes Cobram, Yarrawonga, Echuca, Rushworth, was named as one of the 20 worst ‘‘hotspot’’ regions for youth unemployment nationwide.

In Victoria, the Shepparton area’s jobless rate for 15-to-24-year-olds was just lower than the Bendigo region’s 18.3 per cent youth unemployment, according to the data.

According to the group, the numbers confirm ‘‘many regional and outer suburban areas bear the heaviest burden’’.

Committee for Greater Shepparton chief Sam Birrell said while several key initiatives were under way to address this, the figures indicated that the Shepparton region had ‘‘a long way to go to addressing it and understanding it’’.

Brotherhood chief Conny Lenneberg said the latest ‘‘hotspots’’ revelation smashed stereotypes about young people and called for a more sophisticated public debate about the emerging generation’s challenges.

‘‘These figures belie stereotypes about young people. We know from our research and the experience of our services that many young people are doing it tough,’’ Ms Lenneberg said.

‘‘Yet young people are too often depicted in simplistic terms of consumers of overpriced smashed-avocado toast with a fascination for selfies, and that’s plain wrong.’’

Mr Birrell said there were plenty of initiatives to turn youth unemployment around, pointing to the GROW program, the Lighthouse Project and the Shepparton Education Plan.

He said the forthcoming Shepparton College should be ‘‘very focused on industry readiness’’.

Mr Birrell also said plenty of initiatives were either recent or were ‘‘starting now, that will have an impact on turning those (figures) around, but it’ll be a long road’’.

‘‘It’s a reminder to the community, we’ve got to do better to get this right,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s not something we as a community can accept, that level, whatever the cause.’’

The C4GS chief said when it came to employment ‘‘there were obligations on all sides’’ including a willingness to work.

‘‘If a young person can show that they have that, then an employer’s obligation is to give that young person a chance, and I think they will.’’

According to the Brotherhood of St Laurence, ‘‘at 11.2 per cent the youth unemployment rate, for those aged 15 to 24 in the labour force, is still more than twice Australia’s overall unemployment rate (5 per cent), at December, and almost three times the unemployment rate of those aged 25 and over’’.

‘‘We remain especially concerned at how young people without qualifications and skills or family networks are tracking in this rapidly changing economic and social environment,’’ Ms Lenneberg said.

‘‘To secure the future labour force and create opportunities for decent work, we need structural solutions that drill down to local job markets and infrastructure challenges.’’