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HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES STANDING COMMITTEE ON EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND TRAINING
Factors influencing the employment of young people
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HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES STANDING COMMITTEE ON EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND TRAINING
JUSTIN DE ZYLVA
Factors influencing the employment of young people
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HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES STANDING COMMITTEE ON EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND TRAINING
(REPS-Monday, 28 April 1997)
- Committee front matter
JUSTIN DE ZYLVA
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Content WindowHOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES STANDING COMMITTEE ON EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND TRAINING - 28/04/1997 - Factors influencing the employment of young people
CHAIR —I declare open this school forum on the inquiry into factors influencing the employment of young people. The purpose of the inquiry is to consult widely and produce recommendations for government action that will help promote the employment prospects of our youth. The committee has conducted similar school forums in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Students and members of the committee have agreed that the forums are a valuable opportunity to share concerns and express views about this most important issue. This school forum is one of a series with students in Darwin, Kununurra, Broome, Carnarvon and Kalgoorlie. The committee considers the school forums to be an important part of the inquiry process.
So far the committee has received over 100 submissions and conducted public hearings in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart, Alice Springs and several regional centres in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. For the most part, the evidence collected has come from employers and government and non-government agencies. Through this school forum, all of you will have the opportunity to voice your views and opinions on this important matter.
The agenda and issues for discussion have been sent to you, and you have had prior opportunity to study the issues. Some of the issues we wish to discuss include the effectiveness and appropriateness of the secondary education system, vocational education in schools, employer perceptions of young people, apprenticeships and traineeships, youth wages, income assistance and any other issues you may wish to discuss.
To help structure the debate, I will introduce each section with a few comments based on evidence that has already been provided to the committee. I will then seek your comments and views on the matters under discussion. If you wish to speak, please raise your hand. When you have been given a microphone, please state your name, age and the school that you are from.
Thank you for coming today. We appreciate your giving up your time to come to talk to us. Despite the fact that these people over here have microphones and all of this gets written down, it really is an informal process. If you do not generate the action, nothing will happen. We can sit here and tell you what we think, but that is not what we are here for. We are here to hear what you think, so being bashful will not help the process at all. Usually we find that it takes only one person to get started and everybody wants to talk, and that is good, but it is important that you raise your hand so that Gaye can see who wants to speak and she can try to share the microphone around in order that everybody gets a go. We do not want to cut anybody off. Everybody should have a chance to participate.
I should say to you that, while we are your representatives in parliament, we are just people like you and your mums and dads. We all happen to be men. The committee has a number of women on it, but for one reason or another they could not join us today. We have ties on--I guess because it is expected--but outside we dress the same as you do. We really just want you to talk to us like we are your friends or your colleagues.
The first topic is the secondary education system. We have heard from lots of your colleagues and from businesses and some industry that many young people seem today to lack a real understanding of what kinds of careers might be available to you--what sorts of opportunities there are in the workplace and how many of those opportunities might be available to you without a university degree.
Some young people--I would be interested in your views--have told us that their parents, and indeed their teachers in the school system, encourage them to go on to university. But, more than that, they sometimes say, `If you don't get a university degree'--if that is not an option for you--`then you are doomed to a life of misery because there will just be nothing for you.' That is rubbish. You should know that.
To kick it off, how do your parents and your school system tell you about
what is available for jobs when you finish your schooling? Somebody always
has to speak first, and then it becomes a flood. I am sure Northern
Territory students are not going to tell us that they are all bashful.
CHARLES WHITE —They are not. I am concerned about schools and colleges--Kormilda College being one--not catering for people who are not academically orientated, who are more interested in getting a trade instead of going to university.
CHAIR —Do you have any vocational courses at the school?
CHARLES WHITE —Not as such. We do not have a chance to do tech studies, electronics, automotive studies or any home economics classes in years 11 and 12. It is more pushed in the junior years, in 8, 9 and 10.
CHAIR —What about your careers guidance teachers--how do they help you?
CHARLES WHITE —We get work experience in years 10 and 11. If you are not going to the careers classes before then, then it is a bit of a waste of time. I just do not think that they put much emphasis on the trades in school. They do not cater for the people who are not going to university.
JATI HARBURN —At our school we have a careers office, and it caters for students who are interested in both academic and vocational courses. You are allowed to do tech studies and home economics--all the sort of non-professional university strains. It is easy to pick up one of those.
—Do many of your classmates choose that option?
JATI HARBURN —I would say at least half my friends go that way.
IONE JOLLY —While Casuarina has a lot of vocational education classes, their careers department is not that great. The head of the department advised me when I went there to select physics, chemistry, maths I, maths II and English if I wanted to go to university, to leave all my options open. Personally, I do not think taking physics and maths II is such a good thing. I think they advised me incorrectly. They are assuming that every girl should take those classes so they can be open to engineering, et cetera.
KATE WICKETT —In regard to careers at Kormilda College--I have actually just come up from Adelaide; I have just started at Kormilda this year--they are at the moment setting up career days where people come along from that certain career and talk to us about it. I think that is a good idea, but then of course that is limited because you can only have so many people come and speak to you.
In regard to what the girl from Casuarina said, I tend to agree with that. I went last year to a careers adviser at my old school, Loreto College, and she advised me of certain subjects to do for what I wanted to do when I leave school, which is to go to ADFA. But I found that the subjects that I am doing and that I am able to do are not necessarily the ones that I need. I also found it difficult to do the subjects that I wanted, purely because maybe there was not enough time for the teachers or other classes were scheduled on the same period. For instance, I am taking chemistry and I have no inclination to go down that path; nevertheless, that is what I have to do.
So I think, when it comes to careers and people advising you, there needs to be more a one-to-one basis between the careers' adviser and the student over a prolonged period of time rather than just one meeting, because I found that that one meeting was useful, but six months down the track I have changed my mind--not that I do not want to go to ADFA but that I need some more assistance and guidance.
CHAIR —What is ADFA?
KATE WICKETT —The Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra.
CHAIR —Can we hear from another school?
MELENA RIGG —I tend to disagree with what they are saying, at least at Casuarina. I think Casuarina has a really good careers centre. We have computer programs that allow you to enter what you think you might like to do in the future, and it is just well equipped. I found that, when I was advised, it was just what I had in mind, and what I got was not what I wanted but that was really quite my fault because I was not sure. So it actually does have quite a good careers facility.
—Can we hear from a few other schools? We need not be
bashful. We are all friends.
MARIO TSIRBAS —What this girl from Kormilda College was saying was quite good, because I think with your parents you can sit down and talk about all your grades and stuff and what you think of certain things that you want to do. With your careers officer, counsellor or whatever you want to call them, you need to go into more detail and sit down there and talk about what you have wanted to do before and what you want to do in the future. You talk to them more and get more out of it on a one-to-one basis so they get to know you, what you like and what you dislike, and you get to know them. I think that is a good idea.
IONE JOLLY —I would just like to say one thing. Parents need counselling on what the year 12 subjects, certificate and university entrance mean. Because when I went around to do it, I had to teach my parents all about it.
CHAIR —Fair enough. Let us put it this way: could we have a show of hands of those of you who think your course structure is based on what a tertiary entrance score might be? And those who don't? It looks like we have a lot of fence-sitters.
One of the things we have heard, which I think I heard again a few minutes ago, is that the high school curriculum seems to be structured towards the sciences and the maths in order to get a higher score and in order to be able to get a university place. I know one of my daughters did not enjoy maths much and she did not enjoy sciences much, so when it came to year 12 she did what she wanted to do and she got top grades but she got a very low TER score as a result of not doing sciences, even though she got an A in English, a B in economics and so it went. What do you think of that? Do you think the system is balanced right? Do you think it is fair?
JOANNE RICHARDS —I do not think the system is balanced right at all. I am in grade 10 this year. This year we have six periods of maths a week, which is more than any other subject. It seems to have taken over. Maths and science are the most pushed subjects at Kormilda. English is up there and so is social education, but with languages being cut down to four periods a week, if your interest is not towards maths and science, it can make it harder to focus on other things.
MAREE PATRONI —Driver High School started a new thing this year where they have three different packages for year 11 students. One is an academic course, and there is a business course, and there is a vocational course. So we have all the areas, but the problem with it is that a lot of people do not want to specialise. A lot of people want a couple of different options, but we cannot do that. If you are not in the business courses, you do not have any careers advice; you just do the academic stuff. So it is not all that good with careers there.
KATE WICKETT —Just to clarify a point, I agree that there is definitely much more emphasis put on maths and sciences. For instance, during years 8, 9 and 10, I found it quite difficult to cope with the amount of sciences we were doing. Okay, you need to learn the basic mathematical methods, not only for maths but for logical thinking. However, I found that, in regard to history and English, people were lacking. Those subjects were not their strengths, and they found it hard to express themselves when speaking with people. I do not know what the school or the education department thinks of it, but there should be a higher priority on learning to express yourself and discuss--something I am having difficulty with now--rather than learning so much about maths and then, when you come to speak about it, you cannot speak about it because you have not learnt language to express yourself.
Also, people often ask in maths, `What relevance will this have to me
when I leave school?' The answer is 50 per cent of it will not be relevant.
I do not think years 9, 10, 11 and 12 should have to do as much maths as
they do when they will not be using it. Sure, if people want to go down that
path, that is fine, but it should be part of the university course. I do not
think so much emphasis should be placed on it.
ELIZABETH MOORE —Upon entering year 11, I had to make choices in my subjects. I have to do maths for a semester. I want to go to NIDA, so I am doing a lot of arts courses. What will happen in grade 12 is that, if I get a 20 in art, it is not going to come up on my final score as a 20. They are going to mark me down because it is an arts subject. That is totally unfair. It is like a devaluation of the arts. You only get top marks if you are doing maths or chemistry or biology or something. That is totally unfair, because I work just as hard, and I am not taking art as a bludge subject; I am doing it because I enjoy it and that is what I want to make my career. It is not fair that people should say I am not as good a student because I am doing an arts subject.
CHAIR —Well said.
ANNA-MARIA SOCCI —I am only in year 10. I have not experienced what others who are in years 11 and 12 have, but I have been discussing with others who attend St Johns College the fact that in years 8 and 9 we do not learn anything that is relevant to year 10. It is basically a bludge for years 8 and 9. In year 10 everything has been crammed in. I have not experienced fully what is going to happen in year 10, but my IRR is due soon. As well, we have our work experience and our one-week retreat, which will take up most of our time, so we will not be able to spend our whole term on IRR. Our expectations in science and maths as well in Kormilda College are quite high. We do not have sufficient capacity of teachers helping us because there are too many in a class as well and it is always pressure. This year so far has been pressure constantly. Years 8 and 9, even year 7, were nothing compared with right now.
I think we should have had more time spent in years 8 and 9 learning more
things, because in year 9 we did not learn many things about essay writing
and in year 10 we had a new English teacher and she gave us marks we had
never had before. We were so used to having high marks and we got marks that
we think are low and it is so disappointing because we have not been taught
the way we should have been to the high standards we should have. So I
really think we should have been taught more in years 8 and 9 than how much
we are being pressured in year 10.
CHAIR —Can you tell us what IRR stands for?
JOANNE RICHARDS —Independent research report. It is a major social assignment that you have to do.
CHAIR —Remember we have not been in school for a while.
MARIO TSIRBAS —I agree that schools are putting more emphasis on academic subjects than vocational stuff. I think everybody is suddenly getting caught up in this thing that knowledge is power and then you have got people that maybe do not want to and cannot keep up with other students in, say, maths and sciences and so they decide to take arts courses and other things and there is not really that much open to them. People think, `Oh no, you are going to be an auto mechanic or something,' and you're suddenly a stupid person who doesn't know anything. I think that is very wrong and very degrading to these people.
IONE JOLLY —Last year I did a couple of classes that had more to do with life skills than academics. One was teddy bear making and there were a couple of other things like that, and I was still in the academic stream. This year I am doing academics and I do not get to do any classes like that, which are fun and are not stressful and which will have meaning to my life--not like physics, et cetera.
JATI HARBURN —In response to the girl from St Johns, I think one of the main problems is the standard of teaching. I was attending Dripstone High School last year and I know that we went through different teachers, they could not get permanent teachers in, and we were being chopped and changed. We would have different standards enforced upon us every week. You would go from one term expecting one level and then the next week it would be completely higher or completely lower, and I think in that way I was not properly prepared for the standard of years 11 and 12 because of the way the teachers just were not organised or even aware of all the ins and outs that they should have been.
—In response to the emphasis on sciences as opposed to
arts, I have a friend who is a highly skilled musician and she is also a
highly skilled mathematician. She has skipped grade 10 to get into year 11
at the moment. However, this bias on science subjects as opposed to arts
subjects is going to cost her through her whole life. She has to work very
hard at both her maths and her music at the moment, so in some ways her
maths could be infringing on her musical success. Music is what she wants to
do when she leaves school. She is still going to go to uni, but her entrance
score will drop and as soon as she comes through uni and is a musician she
will not earn much for the rest of her life anyway. Only the really
successful musicians earn heaps of money. I think the bias is really there,
and that is an example of where it has blown to huge proportions. People who
are brainy, people who are not brainy, people who have the skills in areas
that they need just will not be able to succeed in ways that other people
will because they do the wrong subjects.
BRIAN JARICK —I feel that teachers are striving for a goal for us that is not what we expect. So our goals get left behind. Then when we get to years 11 and 12 we start to think again, `What do I want to do?' What we wanted to do when we first started school is left behind, so we have to change our minds again.
Mr MOSSFIELD —Following on from that, in what year do you think that you should be looking at developing views relating to a particular career?
BRIAN JARICK —At about 8 or 9.
Mr MOSSFIELD —Is there some different view on that?
ELIZABETH MOORE —You are at the age of 13 in grade 8 or 9. Since grade 8 I have changed my mind as to what I want to do about three times. I know now, and I am 16, and I think I am at an age now where I am not going to change my mind. I do not think it is fair on yourself to decide in grade 8, `I want to be a musician,' and do only music subjects. I think up to the start of grade 11 you need to keep the options open and you need to have kids trying out different things, trying out maths, trying out science, trying out different arts subjects and vocational courses so that they can make their decision based on knowledge, not on what they think they might want to do.
Mr MOSSFIELD —Can I develop a further theme, although you have been touching on it. A number of employers have said to us that when young people go to apply for a job a lot of people have fairly poor literacy and numeracy skills. Would you agree with that? If you do, why do you think this is so? Is this area being neglected in the school system?
—I think that there are a surprising amount of
people who are in senior school or years 10, 11 and 12 who cannot read as
well as they should be reading or whose literacy and numeracy skills are too
low. I think that there are high schools that are trying to combat this and
trying to have special remedial courses. But with these remedial courses
people should be caught early in primary school. By the time you get to high
school if you cannot read properly your self-esteem is going to be so low
that it is likely you are going to think, `I'm stupid; I can't do anything.'
It needs to be caught early; it needs to be caught when you are in primary
school. There need to be smaller classes. The teachers should be able to see
that a child cannot read and it should be fixed at a young age.
IONE JOLLY —In response to literacy, I reckon that there should be more speech therapists at school. When my little brother was in primary school they had one speech therapist and she used to visit about once a term. He had great difficulty speaking. The only reason she visited him was that my mother chucked a big stink. She came to the school but she would not visit any of the other kids at the school. The other kids have had major problems with their reading and writing and when they are in grades 4 or 5 their parents have had to pay, say, $30 an hour each for tutoring. They really can't afford that. By that stage it is too late for some kids, whereas if you have a mother like mine it is not.
ANNA-MARIE SOCCI —Along with what the Casuarina Senior College students are saying, I had trouble in primary school with my English. I came to Nightcliff Primary School in year 5 and they straightaway put me in ESL class because my father was Italian and my mother was Dutch. They put me in there because they thought I could not speak English properly, because my parents cannot speak it properly. They told my parents that I would never be able to get a job, that I would be lucky to have a K-Mart check-out chick job. Now I am in year 10, I get As in English, most subjects I get As in, and I proved them wrong.
My sister is in grade 4 and she also has trouble. I cannot help her because I have got homework and mum cannot help her out either. Mum went one day to a homework centre and said, `Would you enrol my child?' They said, `No, because your child is not an Aboriginal or a Torres Strait Islander.' This is not a racial thing I am starting up now, but you have got to think about the fact that some students still have difficulty but are expected to understand. ESL classes do not help you out that much. I have been there, done that. I got so confused that my English straightaway went down, but because I had more help with my parents, because they could not speak English before, and they gave me more confidence, I was able to do it. Expectations now are just so bad that my sister could not even read in year 3. She only got taught by me and my mum, and that was it. Most teachers do not help you out any more. They just forget about you. They only concentrate on the higher students. Some do actually help with the kids who have difficulties, but it is a very small majority. I think there needs to be more help extended with these students coming up.
MARIO TSIRBAS —Talking on the same subject, my little brother suffers from ADD and he has trouble concentrating at school. He is in year 3 now, and he has been visiting a speech pathologist privately for the past two years. Seeing his transition from grade 1 on, his reading has suddenly jumped up, and his counting and maths and so on has jumped up incredibly. I am really happy for him because he has been working hard.
But I also feel sorry for the other kids who suffer from the same thing he does and from other difficulties. I really feel sorry for them because maybe their parents cannot understand, and maybe their teacher does not understand, why these things are happening. I know a lot of kids who suffer from ADD especially. They do really silly things, but they cannot help themselves because that is just how they are.
I think special teachers, like speech pathologists and so on, one per
school, especially in primary schools, should go around and look at each
student individually for maybe half an hour a week, and just look at problem
areas and discuss them and work on them. Then this problem would not be so
big because there would be people caring and people trying to help.
JATI HARBURN —My point has been made.
MELENA RIGG —I would like to point out that, although you have your underachieving children, you also have your overachieving children who also need to be extended. There is no catering for gifted children or children who are overachievers. It just does not appear to be happening. My mother teaches a gifted unit and caters for 23 children, except out of the whole school there are more children than that who are gifted and those children are not being catered for.
JOANNE RICHARDS —I will go back to numeracy and literacy problems. I think we can trace the problem back to primary school. That is where the basics of reading, writing and maths are learnt. They are not being taught properly. I was taught to read at a very young age. The emphasis was on how to do things right--the basic things, like sentence structure and how to use all different things.
I have seen kids now in grade 10 who do not read and cannot write. That is because they were not taught the basics. It will be impossible to try to pick them up and go back to the very basics like how to write properly, how to add basically. It will be hard to pick them up because the problem has been left for so long and it is still not being faced now.
IONE JOLLY —Melena has spoken about gifted children. I believe that in primary school I was kept back mainly because I was a female and girls were not meant to be smart. My grade 4 teacher would give me 99 1/2 out of 100 for a project because I had messy writing when my writing was the neatest in the class and stuff like that.
With numeracy skills, in grade 3 where you are actually developing your beginnings, like your times tables and so on, I would finish my maths book and have to go and rub it all out to get back to where the class was so I would not get ahead of the class. I believe that was mainly because I was a girl and I was not allowed to be advanced. My brother now is doing grade 8 maths in grade 5, whereas I was only allowed to do grade 5 maths in grade 5.
—We have got three levels of English at Driver High
School--I do not know whether it is like that at any other school--Level 1,
Level 2 and Level 3. The attitude of the kids there is that Level 1 is for
all the smart people, Level 2 is for the moderate people and Level 3 is for
all the dumb people. That attitude does not really help when you have
teachers saying, `You're not going to learn anything anyway, you might as
well just go home.'
KATE WICKETT —I will be frank: my maths is dismal, I am really bad at maths.
CHAIR —So is my spelling.
KATE WICKETT —That is funny actually--so is mine. I really enjoy English. I think it is the best subject ever. I am probably a grade A student in English. However, with my maths I am probably a C student and, as I said before, I am not really mathematically inclined. However, I do agree that it starts from primary school.
During primary school I can remember my maths lessons. They were for one hour a day from 10 to 11, and we did everything we could to get out of them. The teachers really did not care because they knew that they had to have a certain amount of the syllabus done each year, and if half the class was getting it that was fine; they did not really bother about the other half.
I know that I probably should have worked harder with maths, but the expectation of me was, `Kate's not that smart, but that's okay because she'll get help later in life.' But I really think it has affected my high school years. I wish I could be a little better at maths--but, as I said, not that I go down that way.
I also agree that there needs to be a bigger emphasis on literacy. I have friends in years 11 and 12 who struggle to write an essay. I was helping a girl to write an essay last week. She was in tears because she could not get an introduction structured properly. My parents are very demanding of me with my English. However, she is unfortunate in that her mother's English is not well structured. So her daughter has not been given opportunities that she should have been given to develop her English over the years.
When it comes to things like standing up in a room full of people, I think people should feel comfortable in speaking about things. It does not really matter whether you know the square root of a quadratic or whatever; I think speaking and communicating with people is probably the most important thing anyone can do.
—Before we move on and just for my own
understanding--because I am not as familiar with the education system in the
Northern Territory as perhaps I should be--most of you have spoken of or
expressed a concern about your schools being too academically oriented
beyond year 9, year 10 onwards, and there not being enough opportunities
perhaps for vocational education or at least keeping your options open
beyond years 9 and 10. Are there any colleges or secondary schools in
Darwin, in the Northern Territory, that do give you that option much later
than at the stage you have expressed?
IONE JOLLY —Casuarina does, but there are only a certain amount of lines on your timetable. We have seven lines, and that means you can take seven classes. If you have two maths, two science, an English and a study line, that only leaves one line free. If you want to do, say, computing to help you with the rest of your courses, then you do not have any lines free to do the other subjects. So there is really no time.
JATI HARBURN —I think one of the things that everybody seems to be whingeing about is that they are pushed to do sciences and maths. But the fact is that most people go to the careers counsellor saying, `I don't know what I want,' and the careers counsellor tries to give them the subjects that will give them the best mark that will open up the most opportunity so that when they finally do decide they will be able to get into it. Everybody is saying, `I don't want to do this; I don't want to do science,' yet really we have to do those things in order to keep our options open. So I think that foundation has to be changed before we can start chopping and changing with our subjects.
Mr BARRESI —As a follow-up, just as a bit of a straw poll--and just raise your hands if you like--how many of you are planning not to go to university?
CHAIR —Everybody else is going to university? All those who are going to university, please put your hands up. That was 17. And those who haven't put their hands up, now put your hands up if you do not know what you are going to do. It is about split between university and non-university and those who do not know.
Mr BARRESI —Of those who are not going to university, are any of you planning to take on an apprenticeship or traineeship and, if so, what have you done about it so far?
CHARLES WHITE —I am a strong believer in the defence forces, so I am heading that way myself. As far as trades and that sort of thing are concerned, I think they are really good. I suppose you have all heard the plugs. They pay you money while you are doing it and all the rest of that sort of thing. But, yes, that is the way I am heading.
CHRIS BENNETT —I am doing a VET course at the moment, and that is for construction. I hope to get an apprenticeship out of that--if not, through the Army.
Mr BARRESI —What are the opportunities like up here for traineeships and apprenticeships? Are there ample opportunities if you want to go out that way? Someone told me yesterday--I was speaking to a local--that there is a shortage of panel beaters. I do not know whether that means there are not enough panel beaters or too many accidents.
—With apprenticeships, there are plenty in
Darwin, as far as I know, but there are small businesses that cannot afford
to bring in teenagers with them. It is not that they do not trust them or
anything; it is because they have to pay for their insurance, their
wellbeing. My father is a tiler, and sometimes we want to bring in a
teenager to help us out, one who wants to learn a new trade, but we can't,
because we have to pay for him to go to school at least once a week--my
father wants that--and we have to pay for their insurance and everything
that they need. We would be most likely paying them a couple of hundred
dollars a week and all these things add up after a long period of time. If
or when anything happens to this teenager, you have to pay out quite a bit
of money, so most small businesses are too scared to actually get kids to
their apprenticeships. There are a lot of opportunities around Darwin if you
look for them, but some businesses do not want to take the risk at all.
Mr MOSSFIELD —Just on the same theme: when you say there are plenty of opportunities for apprenticeships, could you give some indication of what field those are in?
ANNA-MARIA SOCCI —As far as I know, they would basically be in trades. There are quite a lot in engineering. Nowadays, teenagers basically do the same old jobs: working at KFC or Woolies or something like that. But that is not a career job. Most adults do not give them the opportunity to test themselves, to go a bit further. One of my mates wants to do civil engineering. As far as he knows, once he gets to university all he is going to do is study--that is basically it; he knows that already--but he still wants to become a civil engineer. What are you going to do? If you don't get your hands into it, you are not to going to learn anything in the long run. So you have to have more practical work.
We have work experience--I haven't had mine yet--for one week in year 10 and one week in year 11. That is just not enough. You need to have more. I cannot say that you can take out all the days of the week during school, but you have to have something that keeps on going. We need to be able to get a taste of work--not just one week where most people just choose to bludge and just go somewhere. Some people choose to go to work for a bakery and work from 12 midnight to 8 a.m. and they sleep the rest. That is like working. The thing is: it is an experience that you will be learning.
MAREE PATRONI —In Darwin there are a lot of options in tourism because it is an important part of Darwin, but at Driver High, in the vocational and business courses, you can choose to go out one day a week for work experience in sales or tourism and there is one other area. You can choose those areas if you want to get into that sort of work. But you can also choose areas, if you want to go to university and that, where you just do academic courses. So Driver High School has a fair range of subjects.
Mr MOSSFIELD —Has anyone here applied for a full-time job, apprenticeship or traineeship? If you did really want an apprenticeship, would you know where to go? Would your careers advisers at school be able to help you in that way?
—I am pretty sure that our school would be able
to. We have a really good careers system. They keep a lot of things on hand
about that. We have quite even vocational and academic at our school. If you
wanted to do an apprenticeship or something like that, I think you would be
able to find out about that at our school. At the school I went to before,
which was Darwin High, I do not think I would have been able to find that
Mr MOSSFIELD —Can you tell me where some of your friends who left school last year have gained employment?
JATI HARBURN —Two of my friends dropped out halfway through year 10. One of them is working as a panel beater and the other one is working as a tiler. They got their jobs within a month. They rang around; they were interested. I know another girl who is sitting around whingeing every day about how she cannot get a job. She is striving for a job that needs qualifications, whereas she has not even completed year 10. I think people need to be realistic. She is thinking of working with animals, but as she does not have any qualifications that will be really hard. I think you need to realise what you can achieve with your qualifications and then just ring around and annoy people.
PAULL HART —Often to get training we go to our careers adviser who gives us help and advice as to where we can go. I want to talk about work experience. Chris and I are currently doing a VET course. One day a week--on Tuesdays--throughout the whole year we attend this VET course. I go to Metclad, which is a sheet metal company in Palmerston. I go through the various machines every day, and I get to learn plenty of stuff. Chris used to go to Barclay Molem, which is a big building company. Since we do the course one day a week, we get used to the job and prepare ourselves for the work force for when we do leave school. It does help us. We get to know people. When we leave school, we can get out there and try our best.
CHAIR —Do you like it?
PAULL HART —Yes, I do. I have been asked if I wanted to change after one term and I said, `No, I will go for it and I will keep going for this.' I have not made up my mind yet.
CHAIR —Do they treat you all right at work?
PAULL HART —Sure. We all get on quite well. Both males and females work there. I am the only student from my school going there at the moment, but one of my other friends is hoping to go. It is pretty good the way it is. You get to learn heaps of stuff, so it is not too bad at all.
Mr BARRESI —Before, when we asked whether or not people were going to go to university, did you put your hand up to indicate that you are going?
—I hope not to go to university.
Mr BARRESI —Has this VET course helped you to make your decision?
PAULL HART —I think it is going to help me get a job in the work force because I will be prepared for what it is going to be like in the real world. I would like to go to uni and continue my education in order to go for a higher job, but the problem is that I want to get started early. That is my choice. I will continue with this VET course because it is preparing me for what I am doing.
IONE JOLLY —There is a program called secondary transition education with the education department. I know one of the work trainers there. One of the kids she was working with got a traineeship with Parks and Wildlife. That was either at the end of last year or the beginning of this year. Several of the kids she works with have been offered jobs from that. They have been offered full-time jobs leading to a career in that area. They go one day a week to the workplace, and each term they change so they get experience in different areas. It is a really good program, except there is one problem, in that workplace counselling should take place prior to work experience. A lot of the previous employees get jealous of the work experience students because they believe they are taking hours off them.
Mr MOSSFIELD —Do you have career days where employers come to your school to tell you what jobs are available in the area? Could somebody give us some examples of that, if it does occur?
JOEL CARLSON —Where we attend at Casuarina Secondary College, once every fortnight or so there is a lunchtime event in the careers centre, which is quite a big block that is devoted just to careers. That goes to show what they are doing. Once a fortnight, speakers from different fields are asked to come in--artists, police people, just to name a few. That is advertised quite a bit. You look around and see signs up saying, `Do you want to know what it is like being an artist? If so, come here.' You have to motivate yourself to do that. They are not going out and saying, `You said you want to be an artist. Come now.' You have to look for yourself for that. If, by chance, you miss the signs, you would not know. I think it is quite successful and it is a good idea.
CHAIR —How many kids go along, typically?
JOEL CARLSON —I haven't actually been to one yet, but the fact that they keep on doing it, I would assume, would mean numbers are quite consistent.
JOANNE RICHARDS —Our school, Kormilda College, has a very similar program. Every Thursday this term our careers adviser has arranged for someone to come to speak to us about jobs. Not only is it helpful to us but after they talk they are willing to actually help you find more information about what they are talking about and maybe help you get into the field later on. If you contacted them and said, `I went to your talk and I'm interested in doing that. Would you tell me how to go about it?' they do talk. They also tell you how to go about it. The Defence Force were very clear on what you had to do to apply for that. One of the things is that, in all our subjects at school and with all the effort, they don't actually give you an impression of a bigger picture. It is like, `You're getting all this education. You should be learning, you should be working.' But they don't say, `This is what you're striving for.'
I agree that you should not choose yourself a career at a really young
age--just leave your options open. They should give more information saying,
`You should try harder at this because then you might have a chance to do
this and this.' They just don't say that. Kids are encouraged to work and do
their best, but they are not exactly told why. That is a bit of a problem.
MELENA RIGG —We can sit here and whinge and whine as much as we want, but ultimately it is up to us to decide what we want to do. There are facilities available and we can go out and find information on career paths. We cannot sit around and blame bad career counselling. Ultimately, it is up to us.
ANNA-MARIA SOCCI —She's got a great attitude towards life but, if you think about it, so many teenagers nowadays don't have that attitude. As far as they are concerned--and this is true--you don't have to go to school; you just have to go to the dole. That's it. I don't have to be worried about getting a job, I don't have to be worried about becoming a mechanic, a lawyer or a civil engineer, anything like that. All I have to do is go down to the nearest dole-bludging place and get my money. That is it, basically. That is the attitude.
Teenagers at my age now--I am only 14, 15 soon--just don't care any more. They go to Darwin High, Nightcliff High and some used to go to St John's College. They went to Nightcliff High, but I don't think they go any more. They actually wag it. They don't care. It is their attitude, it is up to them, but they don't see that they have anything to look forward to. As far as they are concerned, they don't have to worry about life any more. The government is going to look after them and education is not as important as it is supposed to be. There are so many expectations put on them. Some of them are not very good at their English, maths or science or whatever. They are only good at certain things, but that is not noticed at all. Only the main subjects are noticed--if you are not good at those you are good at nothing.
Some people here may be good at trades or public speaking or something like that, but that is not noticed. If you are not good at English, maths, science or social education--those four areas that at our school you need for your straight SSC certificate--you are good at nothing. If you do not pass year 10 you do not get anywhere in life; if you do not pass year 12 you do not get anywhere in life. That is how it is nowadays.
—How many of you intend to leave school and go on the dole?
How many of you have friends who have done that or will probably do that?
That show of hands indicates over 50 per cent, well and truly.
JATI HARBURN —I agree that a lot of people are going to go on the dole. Teachers and students should not be expected, especially at 10, 11 and 12 level, to have to put up with these people if they are not interested. The opportunities--perhaps this is only my personal experience--are there if you want to access them. I do not think it is a question of money or class or anything. If you want to do well, then you work hard and you pick the subjects that are open to you.
Perhaps Casuarina Senior College is more open to change and suggestion than some of the other high schools, I do not know. I have not been to them. I know that at our school if you want to do a vocational subject, if you are willing to work hard and put in the time and energy equal to someone who wants to be a doctor, then you will get somewhere. But, if you want to be on the dole and you want to bludge, so be it. The opportunity is there to get yourself out and get yourself in the work force. Even if it is a vocational subject the opportunities are available. You just have to stop expecting to be held by the hand and get up and access them.
KATE WICKETT —I think that is a very good attitude. At my old school in Adelaide, Loreto College, there were absolutely no options for vocational studies at all. I was reading in the Adelaide Advertiser last week that this school had 98 per cent university entrance rate for year 12. That is great, but those people who did not want to go to university were looked down upon by the school--students as well as teachers. At Kormilda it is very different in that people go and do apprenticeships and they go straight to jobs.
As to what the girl from St Johns College was saying about people knowing that they can go on the dole and bludge, frankly, I look down on people like that. If you are on the dole because you legitimately cannot find a job, that is fair enough, but there needs to be more incentive to find a job. This is probably getting into politics, but I think that the dole should only be for a certain amount of time. For instance, today I was sitting in the study room listening to a bunch of boys saying, `School sucks. I hate it here, blah, blah, blah.' I said to them, `Hey guys, this is school; you can make the most of it and you can be what you want to be.' I know that that is optimistic and a bit idealistic and so forth, but I agree with the girl from Casuarina College that you can make the most of your life and it is attitude. Maybe that is what needs to be addressed. Maybe there needs to be councillors on people's attitudes.
Someone said that we should not have to put up with people who do not
want to be there. I agree with that 100 per cent. I am doing the IB at
Kormilda and there are a couple of students in the class that really do not
want to be there. The question is: why are they doing it in the first place?
They are just detracting from the people who do want to be there.
MARIO TSIRBAS —I agree totally with what these two girls are saying. Some people who do want to bludge around and go on the dole are holding back other people who want to make more of themselves and their lives. I think that is why schools have a leaving age of 15: so they can say to some students who have not been performing at all, `If you don't want to work at school, what do you want to do? Do you want to go and do a traineeship, apprenticeship or whatever? If that is so, we'll find you an apprenticeship. Or do you just want to go on the dole?' or just, `Go away because you are holding up other people.' I think that is a good attitude because in class when students muck up the teacher has to focus on them and tell them to be quiet, get outside, go to the principal and so forth. Other kids are distracted from their work by that and think it is a great big joke when really it is not; it is very important, no matter how you think of it. So I think it is a good attitude.
Mr CHARLES —In the United States you cannot get unemployment benefits until you have been employed. What do you think about that?
JATI HARBURN —I think, in some cases, that defies the purpose. You cannot find a job. What should happen is that you should have to work for the dole, not that if you have not been employed you should not get it because if you have not been employed then the chances of you getting a job are going to be less and less. The problem with getting jobs these days is the lack of qualifications and experience. If you have not worked somewhere before, you cannot get a job somewhere else and the cycle continues.
MATTHEW BRIGHTWELL —I think people should have to work for the dole. Also, if there are 10 skilled motor mechanics who are not employed, the government should invest in a new garage or something out of our money--out of our parents' money, actually: taxpayers' money--so those people can work. They should do that with other things, like any unskilled people should notify the government and if there are enough numbers they should invest in that area.
JOANNE RICHARDS —I do not believe that anyone should be held back from doing anything that they want to do if they think it is worth while doing. These people who just want to go on the dole and whatever can do that, as long as they realise what is going to happen if they are going to make that decision. If the government suddenly decides that there will be no more dole, those people may think, `I should have done this. I should have done that course. I should have gone to TAFE.' Maybe they will realise one day what they should have done. But if they hold us back that is just not fair.
Most of us would be striving to get ahead in life and striving to do what
we are good at. These people are going to hold us back, as one guy said, by
taking the teacher's attention or by not participating. We are asked to work
in groups and come up with group solutions. This is great experience for
life because you cannot just lead your own life, you have to be able to work
in a team. But it is impossible with people who do not want to work, who
will not contribute and who will not think. If they do not want to be there
we should just say, `Go. Realise what you are doing but go anyway.'
JOEL CARLSON —I agree with what lots of people have been saying so far except that, if these people leave school and bludge on the dole, as has been put, we will have a lot of people who are out of school and who are not really ever going to have much inspiration to work or do uni, get an apprenticeship or anything. While I agree with the attitude I am not sure that we can say `Leave' because then we would be putting people on the streets who maybe are going to be unemployed for the rest of their lives. We would be supporting them, as taxpayers, when we have gone through the system. It would bring more and more unemployment out there.
Perhaps programs should be geared towards making these people look up and see what they are actually doing. I do not have a quick solution for it. I agree wholeheartedly that these people could really hinder other people who want to do vocational or university stuff, but before you can just turf them out of school you really have to think about what that will do to unemployment later on.
Mr MOSSFIELD —I have a question for the young lady down there. I would like to know why she thinks there are some young people who would just want to go on the dole and do nothing else? What percentage of young people fall into this category?
ANNA-MARIA SOCCI —To answer your question, I could not tell you how many people are on the dole.
Mr MOSSFIELD —No. How many people at your school, for example? Would it be a small percentage?
ANNA-MARIA SOCCI —Yes, basically. But it has to do with their attitude. Many people would be saying the same thing.
Mr MOSSFIELD —Would the fact that it is very difficult to get employment make people pessimistic and give up too easily?
ANNA-MARIA SOCCI —I could not really answer that question--maybe others could. I believe that, if you want to get the dole, you should work for it. Everyone's parents pay tax--even you do. As far as I know, everyone pays tax in some way--just buying a loaf of bread or something like that. We are paying people money to sit down, to relax, to go to the beach for the whole day or to do something else. They should be able to work for it. They want to be able to sit at home and not work. They want to just sit there and do nothing and get their money and go out for the night. They should not have that attitude. They should have the attitude, `Okay, tomorrow morning at 8 a.m., I have to go to work. Someone is going to set me up with a job somewhere. I should have to get my money somewhere.'
There are jobs somewhere. I am not saying that picking up rubbish is the
best job in the world, but it is something. You are earning your money. You
can look after kids, clean the pool or mow lawns. They are kids' jobs, but
if you work for different types of businesses--such as a VIP garden service
or whatever--that is something to start on. It is not the best thing in the
world. You are not getting $100,000 a year but you are starting from
somewhere. You are actually earning your money. You have more pride than if
you sit there and get other people to give you money. You are actually
earning that money that you are willing to have.
CHAIR —I know heaps of adults who mow lawns for a living and make very good money. They pay heaps of taxes too.
Mr BARRESI —I want to follow up on Anna-Maria's point; I was going to ask this question before. There are heaps of jobs and people can start at base level and work their way up. There are employers out there. You mentioned that your father is typical of people who are not prepared to give young kids an opportunity for various reasons. How do you get around that individual, that type of businessman, and convince them that they should give a young kid with no experience an opportunity?
ANNA-MARIA SOCCI —Basically, you cannot convince my father. We got a letter about all the things to do. My mother would be the same as this girl's over here. She would be telling you exactly what she thinks; she would be full on, going for you. I cannot really speak about this because it is not my opinion, but basically my mum said that, if the government had something to do with it and gave some money to the businesses--I am not saying that businesses take all the money--they could get insurance for those kids. They could put some insurance on the kids. I am not promising anything; I know nothing about the business world. I am just saying what I know, based on my own parents. Some people do not get work for three months. If you do labouring work, you get excellent money, but you can go through dry-outs where you do not get any money. Labouring is a good job.
To get through to my father, you have to convince him by actually saying, `Yes, I will pay for your insurance.' My father is happy to give people jobs but just cannot. Many businesses just cannot give work to these kids--unless it is KFC or Woollies and those things. The small businesses just cannot employ them. There is no hope. They could lose so much money in the long run.
Mr BARRESI —So employing the young kid is just too high a risk for them to take. Is that what you are saying?
—Yes. Most people who do get employed are
employed by their parents because the parents know that, if anything goes
wrong, it is in the family.
IONE JOLLY —I do not really believe that the unemployment rate is that bad in Australia. In places like Germany, which is a big industrial country and one of the powers of the world, there is a 20 per cent unemployment rate and ours is somewhere around 10 per cent. So currently it is not too bad.
The work for the dole scheme could work in Australia, because it has worked in places like Canada and New Zealand. In Alberta in Canada, an Athabasca MP introduced it, and all the local people really like the idea. The employers are really getting into it and the people who are on the dole really like it--they say it improves their self-esteem. I also believe that the last grade of school should be raised to, say, year 14, so we could be given more experience, and we could grow up and mature to make our decisions on careers.
KATE STUCHBURY —I totally agree with the work for the dole scheme. You should be able to do community service and work for your money. You may be working for the government, but at least you are getting money and not bludging. People's money is going to good use. Also, you know how you said your father was not insured. The government should aid him in getting insurance so that he can have students employed. There is a big risk.
CHARLES WHITE —Maybe the Australian attitude is that people do not have that little thing in their head which says, `You must go on and get a job and be educated.' To look at some of the more developed Asian countries--for instance, Japan--everyone runs around and it is expected that you achieve really highly. We have all seen those types of people. They are all running around and they are all really smart and they can all sit down and take time and try really hard whereas maybe in Australia people are not thinking that way. Secondly, I thought that government did give things to people who were taking on students--maybe not money, but benefits.
MARIO TSIRBAS —I am 14, so I do not have much experience of the world as such. Talking about apprenticeships and stuff with this girl here, when you get risks from taking on young, inexperienced people you also get benefits. You are teaching them the trade, and then they can help you. They are working for you. They are adding more produce to your business, and so you are getting more out of it.
I also think that why some employers do not want to take on young people
as workers is because of all this media hype that kids do not want to work
at all and just want to go on the bludge straightaway. That is wrong. Some
kids--I would like to say most, but I am not too sure about that--who are on
the dole and have been for a long time are out there looking for work and
want to work, but the media is blowing way out of proportion cases where
kids have a really bad attitude and do not want to work, and this is scaring
employers into saying, `No, nobody wants to work.'
KATE WICKETT —To refer back to your question, Mr Mossfield, about why kids want to go on to the dole, the simple answer to that is: because they know they can. Many people have said here--
Mr MOSSFIELD —Wouldn't they rather work?
KATE WICKETT —What do you get out of working if you can sit home and drink a few tinnies each day and know that you have a cheque in the mail every week or month or whatever it is? I would not know when it comes. Someone was talking about pride in doing work. I totally agree. And the class structures are a problem--that is, self-esteem and paranoia where people think, `If I am a garbage collector or a postman, people are going to think of me lower in society.' I do not think that at all. If you are on the dole, people will think lower of you. People who say, `There are no jobs out there,' are not looking hard enough and they are not going to lower themselves to the jobs. Who is saying they are lowering themselves? It is there own mind set that is saying they are lowering themselves. So I do not think they have an argument there that is strong.
To refer to the jobs for apprenticeships, I think the government might like to prioritise where they are allocating the money. Sure, there has been a lot of talk lately about putting money into small business, and I think that would be a good idea--maybe directing it from other places into small business, into education and into the schooling system, whereby people can be taught at a higher standard and then apprenticeships can eventuate.
MATHEW KERLE —A lot has been said about people not wanting to work; they have this attitude that they like to sit around and bludge. My opinion of that is that, personally, I am just about scared shitless about going into the work force. I only know school: going to school, fighting with the teachers, doing my work, going home, struggling and all of that. When I think about going out into the work force and having to cope with all this new stuff that comes along, I go into a cold sweat; I just don't want to think about it.
I am lucky. My parents have high expectations of me; I have to succeed. So I am going to go on and I will probably do well, but a lot of people maybe do not have that support network or their parents maybe do not have the time for them or they have got other things that are distracting them and they cannot think about this.
The world as it is is being transformed into this huge, confusing thing. It is so huge and complex, and there is so much you have to know that it can easily overwhelm you. So if you cannot cope with that, it is easy to just opt out of the system and say, `I cannot cope with this; I am just not going to do it.' So they drop out of school, bum along for a while, maybe get on the dole, be a bit of a no-hoper--and then someone has to come along and invest a lot of time and effort in trying to get you up, set you up and put you back on your feet.
So I think this is a problem that should be addressed and that--going back a lot--maybe there should be more focus earlier on in the years, say, about now, in years 10 and 11, on a course where people can have a look around, have a look through a wide range of options, see what they like and figure out how these things work and say, `Oh, I can do this.'
At our school we have a good idea with guest speakers that you can talk
to. These people are actually there doing the job and you can see how hard
it is, what you have to do, what you have to cope with, and maybe realise
and figure out that it is not so hard after all; you can go ahead and you
can do it.
JATI HARBURN —I hate to be difficult, but I think one of the problems we are having here is that we are all sort of agreeing with each other and we are not coming up with any solutions. We are all going over the same points. And another problem we are having here is that none of us is so down or so uninterested to not be here to voice an opinion. I don't think we have anybody here who is so uninterested in their education and their future, because we are all here to talk about it. So we can keep agreeing with each other and saying, `Oh yes, it is hard, it is hard,' but we are not coming up with any solutions or any remedies to the problems we are having. We are just going over the same points.
Mr BARRESI —Can I just go back to the young boy who spoke a moment ago about the fear of going out into the work force. I can very well understand that in terms of going for your first job. Wouldn't work experience and schools developing a partnership with the local businesses in the area to provide students in the school through the VET or your secondary transition education or other programs help in being part of that? Wouldn't getting yourself on to work experience tend to break down the mystique of the workplace and also introduce you to the routine of work--getting up in the morning and going on to work every day?
MATHEW KERLE —It is a good idea, but the thing is you are not always going to do the same thing. It has been said many times that you do not get one idea and go straight through with that. Personally, I have changed what I want to be at least three times so far in my life. I wanted to be a diesel fitter, so I did work experience for that and I was finding out a lot about that. Then I talked to someone who really knows a lot about that--he has spent his whole life in the business--and he basically told me, `Don't waste your time with it. You can do better than that.' So now I have to go out again, except that now I am in year 11 I am doing all the hard subjects--I am aiming for engineering and I want to go to the Defence Force Academy down south--and I do not have time for that. I do not have time to take a week off school, lose a whole week of my studies, to go in and try out with an engineer. What would suit me best would be to sit down with an engineer and talk to him about it. Basically I do not have the time to go out for a week.
—Referring back to the issue of the dole, who
wouldn't want to sit round and do nothing and get money for it? You are
under no pressure from your employer or anything like that. You just take
your days as they come. As for work for the dole, I am very much in
agreement with that, because there is a community about 300-500 kilometres
west of Tennant Creek where they have enforced this very heavily and it is
probably the best community that I have seen for a long time. It is always
clean. There is no vandalism. It is just a very nice place to go to.
MELENA RIGG —Work experience, particularly in year 10, is pathetic. I went to a law firm because I had these ideas that I would be a lawyer. I spent my time filing and photocopying. That taught me absolutely nothing about the law industry. I had friends who went to firms like that. They learnt nothing. When you go to work experience, TRAC and vocational studies are good, but in junior school there is no point. The employers do not trust you. You have no responsibilities and you are slave labour.
JATI HARBURN —I would like to totally disagree. I went to Morgan Buckley and I did spend a lot of time filing. But when they realised that I was not a complete bimbo and I was not about to put the Gs in with the Es they gave me opportunities. They gave me the opportunity to go with them into the courts. I was allowed to sit in on proceedings. I think they had a lot of bad experience previously with people, but I found that it was really good. It was a real inspiration for me.
MAREE PATRONI —I agree with the first girl. In a lot of the places they would not let you do stuff, especially in administration because they cannot. If you do muck it up, it makes a lot of problems for them. I went to a resort type thing. In a lot of the areas like cleaning and the kitchen you can help out because it is not such a big deal if you make a mistake. That is where a lot of the people have a problem--they go to administration areas and you cannot do the work because you are not qualified yet. In the trade areas it is not so bad.
CHAIR —How many of you have or have had part-time jobs? It looks like most of the room. How about telling us about your part-time jobs and whether you think they help you or will help you in the future to get work. How difficult is it to get a part-time job?
JUSTIN DE ZYLVA —I was working at K-Mart for five months to save for a trip to Paris. When I went there I did not expect the work to be like it was. The work consisted of a psychological part, not just a physical part. I thought it would just be, `Go stack stuff on the shelves and serve people at the checkouts.' But you had to put on a smiley face and you had to be able to obey your boss, for instance. That was a new thing for me.
It was really hard because that is the thing that work experience does not teach you about. Education, for instance, is a tool we use to help us fit into society--to get something out and to fit in--but it does not teach us how to use this tool. We have to work this out ourselves. That is the real difficult bit about work experience. When I went to K-Mart, to battle with my boss, shouting at me and all sorts of stuff was real hard for me. It was a new thing.
For instance, I also work with my dad. He will not put me too much
through his sorts of problems, but I have an outlook of what his problems
are like. If contractors do not go his way and the problem looks pretty
meek, he has to look for other options and all sorts of things. He is
prepared in his situations. I do not know anything about this stuff. I
believe that work is something that you just go out and do. It is something
on a set criteria. But nothing is a set criteria. Your emotions and
everything come into it. So that is a good experience for me--working
CHAIR —Good on you.
BRIAN JARICK —I have had several part-time jobs from when I turned 15. But most of them are more to earn money so I could help myself to go through high school. It depends on what field you are looking at working in when you get out of school as to whether they help you out with your schooling. I have worked for a fruit and veg shop. I worked for DEBM. But they have not really helped me, because the field I want to work in is linguistics. So all they have really helped me do is pay for courses that I want to do at school. They have not really helped with the area that I am looking at getting involved in.
CHAIR —Any employer worth his salt will look at all the experience that you have had and take that into account. If you go up against other people who have not had part-time work and you have heaps of it, you are bound to win every time.
ANNA-MARIA SOCCI —I have not had my work experience yet, but basically I know--since year 6 actually--that I want to become a barrister. I have only one week of experience. I am not going to spend it in a law firm because I know--I expect it--there is no way in the world that I am actually going to be in a court defending somebody, because I have no qualifications in that work. I have no right to be there in actual fact. I would rather be mowing lawns or working in the bakery--something that I can do myself.
I have a part-time job. That is with my family, though. I work for a business with my family. My parents will not let me get a job. I asked my parents, `Do you want me to get a job?' No. Specific, mean answer--no. I work for my parents and I get paid every Sunday. That depends on the profits we make. If we make a profit, my brother and I get paid, but we are the bosses in the work. We have two businesses--this may be boring to you--one being a tiling business, and that is where the main money comes in, and we have a simple food market and that is mum's hobby. But my brother and I run it. We learn so many things: communication, knowing how to add up, doing the books. My brother and I do it. Everything that you need to know, we have been doing it.
I am only 14. My brother is 24. He has been in and out of work, but he has always been working. He has never been on the dole. I know that some people have to go on the dole. There is no such thing as, `You cannot go on the dole.' If you have to go then go, but do not think that you can go on it for a long period of time. Know that there is always some job to go to.
I have always said, `I will never go on the dole. I will never be a bludger. I will never do this.' But I do not know. For all I know, when I get older I will probably be able to work for a couple of months and I will have to rely on the dole. But I will not do that for long. I know that I have to do something. Actually, that is how the attitude should be of more adults these days, and more or less teenagers as well.
There is a kid in my school--he is in our class--and his parents are on the dole and his attitude towards life is nothing. He sleeps in class. He does not care about nothing at all. Probably most students do. But, as far as he is concerned, life sucks. Someone else said it. That is the attitude towards life. Because his parents are on the dole, he thinks that when he gets older he will get on the dole. As far as he knows, it is going to go on and on.
Work experience is really good, but there needs to be more part-time
jobs. Some people cannot get them--like me--because we are not allowed to.
Others have to have more qualifications nowadays. Education is really good
to go into uni or to do things like that. It is really great. But we need to
have more hands-on work. Sitting there learning is not going to do
everything for us. We need to do more things with our hands or actually
getting into the work. I cannot actually get into that, but some other area
so I can learn a different qualification except just one.
IONE JOLLY —My dad is in the government and he takes uni students over the holidays and sometimes work experience students from high school. Most of the students he intends on sitting in front of the computer and getting them to type in data because his guys do not have enough time to do it. I do not really see the point of getting work experience with people if they are just going to sit you in front of a computer.
I had a part-time job delivering pamphlets. The guy who I was doing it with would constantly rip me off. Even though it was a small amount, he would have 20 kids doing it and so he would make a big profit out of us. I would not bother worrying about $50, but when it is 50 times 20, that is $1,000 every so often, and that is a lot of money. You cannot really trust them most of the time.
KATE WICKETT —I agree. I am in the same situation as Anna-Maria. I work for my parents. They will not let me get a part-time job because they think I should be studying on my school work. However, they have an accounting practice together and I work in there and file and learn to use the Xerox photocopying machine, answer the phone and those sorts of things. I get paid weekly. I had previously applied for jobs before they decided that it was not a very good idea for me to get a job. I got three interviews from three CVs I handed in and they said, `You would be really good because you have a good character, et cetera. However, you do not have any experience, therefore we cannot hire you.'
You were saying before, Mr Charles, that if people have got experience then they are always going to get it. It is a vicious cycle: people are not going to hire you because you do not have experience so where are you expected to get the experience from? I have done work experience at the Smith Family in Adelaide. We had to do it a community based service and I did it at the Smith Family. I worked there for four or five days and they taught me how to use the Xerox. I said, `Yes, I have been through this, it is okay.' They just got me to do the slack work and the stuff that they did not really want to do. In that sense, I learned how to do some photocopying, and sure that is a necessity in life if you are going to go that way, but I did not learn anything that I could not have otherwise. It did not really help me.
I worked for my parents and I also worked for my step-mum. She works for
the nurses board and I was in there helping doing registrations. You can
learn from those sorts of experiences, but when you go to school they know
you are only going to be there for a week, or a certain period of time, so
their mentality is, `Why put all our efforts into this one person when we
know they are only going to be here for a week.'
MARIO TSIRBAS —I have not done my work experience yet, so I do not know anything about that, but from what I have heard from my family and from other students I think what this girl has been saying is quite true, that people just give students the job because they cannot be bothered doing it and to get it done.
I work with my father who sells tiles. You might not think that is too exciting, but he owns two shops. So in one shop I work as a storeman and in the other I sell the actual product. I think that is a good experience for me because I can also get into the mentality of having a happy face whenever they abuse you; also, working hard and using your muscles, getting into things like looking at dockets and saying, `Where does this go? Where should I put this?' and so on is a good experience. The part-time work is where you get your basic experience from--working with your parents. As you say, it is a vicious cycle: `You do not have any experience. Too bad. We will get this person who does.' So this is the only time you ever get a chance to get some experience, because if you have never had a part-time job or anything obviously you have no experience, and so this is where it all comes into it.
Maybe people should start--especially schools and other businesses--doing work experience during the holidays. Maybe those kids who feel that they want more experience to get jobs and stuff should take a course that goes through the holidays and they can work in a certain area and learn more things. I think that would be a good way to go.
—I was very lucky with my work experience because
through that I got a part-time job, and I have also been offered a
traineeship through it. So I was lucky in that sense. But, when one of my
friends went to the Plaza, they spent their whole time highlighting and
filing. I went to another hotel. The atmosphere in the two hotels was
different. A lot of the time the bigger businesses and high-class places
can't let you do much because of the image they've got. So you just have to
be lucky enough to get a good place.
ELIZABETH MOORE —Everyone so far has really been bagging work experience, saying that you get all the awful jobs. But if you go to a law firm you cannot expect them to give you anything much but filing. There isn't much else you can do. They can't let you take on cases or anything like that, but you can be there and watch and gain experience from it. Maybe it is not the best experience in the world, but you can watch what they are doing. I think work experience is really good in that sense. You can't expect to learn everything about the job, but you can watch.
CHARLES WHITE —In defence of work experience, I worked for the Navy in different spots for about eight weeks. With weapons, technology and top secret stuff they can't let you do much, but you are there to make the most out of work experience. So you get around and ask questions and have a look for yourself. They put me in a different section each time. Once I was in Weapons and then in Electronics. If electronics got boring, I went down to the next floor or somewhere else to look for something to do. So you get around, ask questions, bug people and find out all you can.
MATTHEW BRIGHTWELL —I would just like to say that I think work experience will be good, but there should be more of it. You only get one week to experience the job that you would like to do, but if something goes wrong or you don't like it our careers teacher told us that you can go and find another job within that week. That is all you can do. If something goes wrong and you don't like it, you miss out and have to wait until the next year. If something happens again, you don't really know what to do. I reckon there should be more of it because it is a good system.
Mr BARRESI —Some of you have not had bad experiences with work experience. In fact, I think two of you actually made the point that you were offered a more permanent position--whether it was part time or staying on. This may be a hard question to answer--perhaps I should ask this of your career counsellors--but what was it about that specific work experience which made it successful? What did that employer do which made it a good experience for you? We know about the ones that have had bad experiences--and I can get a feel for why that was the case--but what about the good ones?
—I went to a law firm and was given a lot of
opportunities. I was taken to court. I was given a lot of inspiration. I was
taken aside and spoken to about the sorts of courses I would want to do,
about the sorts of aspects of law I could follow. It wasn't all hands on--I
spent most of my time in front of a photocopier--but the thing that they
gave me that I benefited from was simply the inspiration and the drive and
the push for me to work harder to get into a career like that.
MAREE PATRONI —For work experience I went to the Mirambeena Tourist Resort. The first day was fairly boring because I was working in administration. Basically, I folded envelopes and pieces of paper for them and sorted out what they had to post. The next day I worked in the kitchen and did functions and stuff like that. The next day I worked in cleaning. Then the next day I made up advertising packs. Because I worked in cleaning and in the kitchen, I actually did the work. If you are in administration, you do all the boring stuff, the stuff they do not feel like doing. When you do what the actual workers do, you feel more helpful. When you are in administration, you feel like you are in the way.
MATHEW KERLE —I had a really good experience with my work experience. I went to Komatsu Machinery. The first day I was there I basically did the jobs they did not want to do. I picked up all the hydraulic hoses from the mud and cut things up--really boring stuff that even the apprentice did not want to do. I was conscientious, I did what I was told and I stuck to it. The next day one of the diesel fitters asked me to help put together some big dozers that they just got in. I suppose that was a fairly responsible position, because I was expected to have a good knowledge of safety and to know my limits, because I was dealing with tonnes of steel and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of machinery.
I think what you get out of work experience depends on the person. If you do not want to get much out of it, if you go somewhere just to spend the time and you do not really care about it, you will not get much out of it. But, if you care about it and you go somewhere where you think you will get the most out of it, if you do what you are told and you basically behave as though it is work and you do your best, they will see that you are doing your best and that you are capable, and they will give you as much as they can give you. I realise that if your work experience is with a law firm they cannot put you on a case, but if you show that you are capable they will let you sit in and listen to everything to see how it all works.
BRIAN JARICK —I believe the attitude you project makes what you do for your work experience a more exciting place to be. I am currently doing stage 2 TRAC; last year I did stage 1. At three of the four places I went last year, I was treated as a person, and that made it a lot more enjoyable. It does not matter what you are doing--whether you are filing, typing on a computer or sitting in a courtroom with a lawyer--it makes it a lot more enjoyable if you are treated as a person. At the other place I was treated as a statistic, and that made me feel lower than what I was trying to project. It is the personal projection and the way they appear to see you that make a good work experience place.
—Are you given any advice at school regarding
interviewing skills, how to present yourself when you go for a job? Would
somebody like to give me some examples of the way you think you should
present yourself when you go for a job?
MELENA RIGG —Last year I attended Darwin High School. Part of work experience included almost a whole term of social education. It focused on work experience, how to write resumes, how to talk on the phone when being interviewed, et cetera. Basically we were told that we should always be polite, courteous, well dressed and eager for the job.
MATHEW KERLE —For my work experience I went to Nightcliff High. We did not get much information on what to do, what to expect or what to look for. Any knowledge we gained was from taking teachers aside and asking them how to go about it and what the best thing to do was. Officially all they did was call us out into a big assembly and tell us what we had to do to make the school look good, `Don't make us look like dirt.' They did not hand out any sheets or talk to us one to one and say, `When you are doing the interview, try to be polite and courteous,' or give us any techniques that we could use to cinch it. There was no real solid advice. We just got taken aside by the teacher and were given the background knowledge.
Mr MOSSFIELD —So you think it would be important if they added that to the curriculum?
MATHEW KERLE —I do not know about the other schools; that was my experience at Nightcliff.
Mr MOSSFIELD —Some employers also say to us that they like new employees to research their own companies so that when you go for a job you have some idea of what that particular company does. You might keep that in mind whenever you apply for a position.
IONE JOLLY —Last year at my former school I did career education. We had to have an interview with the careers counsellor. He told me that I was not eager enough for the job because I was overqualified. Granted, I was applying for a funeral assistant's job. He told me I had too many qualifications on my resume for the job and I should have been applying for something higher. Therefore, he probably would not have given me the job because I was overqualified.
Mr BARRESI —Can I give you an example that Mr Mossfield was referring to about doing research for an interview. This is by no means a high benchmark, so don't look at it as if you have to do it as well. When I worked for a company prior to going into politics we had a student who came in and applied for a full-time job. He got to the second interview. The guy was so knowledgeable about the company; he knew everything about what we were doing. It came to us after a while and we asked him how he knew so much.
About two months before the interview took place he organised to do a
tour of the company under the guise that he was doing a school project. He
went right through the plant. He went into parts of the plant that some
employees had never been into and he knew everything about that company. So,
come the interview, he was asking questions and we were all dumbfounded why
he knew so much. He impressed, of course, and now he is working in sales,
which kind of makes sense.
CHAIR —We have been asking the questions. We are coming close to the end of our time together. Is there anything that we have not brought up in examining this issue of employment for you and your colleagues? Is there something you would like to mention or talk about that we haven't questioned you on?
IONE JOLLY —I don't think you mentioned what age you should start and finish school. I believe that we should either start school later or the grades should be extended so we have the opportunity to go on for longer. I have some friends in Switzerland. They have only just finished uni and they are 27. They were old enough to make the decision that that was the career they wanted whereas I figure that when I am 17 I will not be old enough to make a decision as to whether or not I want to go into geophysics or something like that at uni. It is just too hard at such a young age.
CHAIR —Many of you have talked about the fact that you have already changed your mind several times. Don't let that bother you. I am on my fourth career. Life happens like that, and it will increasingly happen like that in the future. So don't let that worry you.
CHARLES WHITE —Do you know exactly why the Northern Territory has the lowest unemployment rate for people coming out of school, youth in particular?
CHARLES WHITE —Is that what this is all about? Is this what these forums are for?
CHAIR —I don't know. We were in Alice Springs three weeks ago and they told us there that if you want a job you can get a job. You might not get the one you want. You might want to be a brain surgeon and you have to work at K-Mart, Woolies or McDonald's, but if you want a job you can get a job. That is what they reckon. Don't ask me; I don't understand. We will ask some people later this afternoon.
—I know you have had meetings like this before in
other states and other parts of Australia. But what does this do for the
whole picture? Are you just going to look at this information that we have
given you and our thoughts and our feelings about the subjects that we
brought up? What is the government going to do about it now?
CHAIR —Firstly, remember that we are not the government. We are a committee of parliamentarians--your representatives. We represent all the political parties. It is a multiparty committee. After leaving Darwin and speaking with people located around WA this week, including more of your colleagues and some adults who represent either employers or employment type bodies or whatever, we will sit down in May and June and start to compile a report. We may talk to a few more people. In August or September we will bring down a report in which we will make a number of recommendations--probably not very many but a few recommendations that we think will really help: No. 1, to help you to become more employable, and No. 2, to try to encourage employers to make more jobs available for you. That will be a bipartisan effort.
We will present the report to the parliament--not to the government but to the parliament. The Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs is required, on behalf of the government, to respond to our recommendations. We would hope that we are intelligent enough and good enough that, with all of your input from all over the country, we will be able to make a difference. That is what will come out of it.
It will not be a report stating that we think somebody should investigate something else again; I guarantee you that. It will be a report recommending that we do some things. For example, this committee was first formed in 1988, I think. In the early 1990s, we compiled two reports on literacy: one was on adult literacy but the second report on early childhood literacy development has become the Bible for government action. Everybody in Australia still refers back to that report on literacy. We frightened the life out of people because we said that there was a problem. Now something is being done about it, but whether it is enough remains to be seen.
Another report we did back in the early 1990s was into Austudy. I think it had 23 recommendations, and the government of the day picked up 22 of the 23 and implemented them. In 1995 we compiled a report on group training schemes and recommended that they be expanded in scope, be given more funding and have a larger part to play in creating apprenticeships and traineeships. The government has picked that up and is doing it. We do not always win, but if we do it intelligently we should have a huge influence over government action. That is the best I can tell you.
Young ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. You are a very bright and intelligent and, I might say, literate lot. Thank you for coming and spending your time with us today and helping us with our inquiry. I also thank your principals and teachers.
Resolved (on motion by Mr Barresi):
That this committee authorises publication, including publication on the parliamentary database, of the proof transcript of the evidence given before it at public hearing this day.
Forum adjourned at 3.29 p.m.
Mr Charles (Chair)
Mr BarresiMr Mossfield
The committee met at 4.01 p.m.
Mr Charles took the chair.
CHAIR--I declare open this public hearing of the inquiry into factors influencing the employment of young people. The purpose of this inquiry is to consult widely and produce recommendations for government action that will help promote the employment prospects of our youth. The committee has received over 100 submissions, and has conducted public hearings in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart, Alice Springs and several regional centres in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. The committee has also conducted school forums, including one in Darwin today, in which young people express their views and opinions to the committee.
The committee is now conducting public hearings in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. This meeting is one of a series in Darwin, Kununurra, Broome, Carnarvon and Kalgoorlie, which will gave Australians outside the capital cities an opportunity to put their views and their concerns to the committee. This is a very broad ranging inquiry, and matters raised in submissions so far include the attitudes of young people, the work ethic of young people and their familiarity with the requirements of the workplace, the adequacy and relevance of the education and training systems, the importance of developing better linkages between schools and the business sector, the need for a more flexible industrial relations system and the effectiveness and efficiency of government programs to assist young people to find employment.
That is not meant to be an exhaustive list of issues that the committee will consider or which might be raised. We are entirely open to the views of everyone who wishes to make an input to the committee. We are here to listen, to learn and to help improve the prospects of young Australians. I welcome representatives of the Henry Walker Group and the Northern Territory Mining Industry Training Advisory Board.