Learning From What Works: The Role of Good Practices in Youth Employment

11/11/20

Jessica Graham-Franklin is the Program Lead for Review at Social Ventures Australia. Jessica has nearly 10 years’ experience across the social purpose sector, with a focus on program design and outcomes measurement. For the last two years Jessica has been working alongside youth employment services and experts, undertaking research and co-designing a set of tools that enable youth employment practitioners to design, deliver and measure good practice services for young people experiencing disadvantage.

The labour market is in a tailspin. If we don’t do something quickly to ensure that young people are supported, things will get really tough. Now is the time to learn from what works best but evidence of good practice is still scarce. That’s why at Social Ventures Australia, we have developed Review. A Toolkit and Outcomes Measurement Platform that brings together current best practices in youth employment service design, delivery and measurement.

Review supports practitioners to learn from their own practice and from the young people they support. Learning and sharing experiences, innovative approaches, challenges and lessons is going to be vital to ensure that young people get through this crisis.

The employment outlook for today’s young people 

The impacts of COVID-19 on young people in the labour market are only just beginning but one thing is clear – the scarring effects are going to be felt for a long time to come. Even before the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic, young people were more than twice as likely to be unemployed than the rest of the working age population. An even larger group of young people were underemployed – that is they had some work but were looking for more work.

Unemployment and underemployment will be further exacerbated by the current crisis, and while the impact will be felt by all young people, it will be hardest for those young people who were already finding things difficult – whether because of personal or family challenges, or because of lack of access to transport, training, or other opportunities.  

Unless something changes, many young people will find themselves locked out of the labour market for good or stuck in a cycle of low quality jobs – less stable work that does not provide enough hours and/or use one’s skills and that provides no prospect of climbing the job ladder.

The role of good practice youth employment services 

In an era where there is one job vacancy available for every 13 people on Job Seeker or Youth Allowance, it can be tempting to design services that assume that any job for a young person is a good job – that ‘beggars can't be choosers’. It is true that it is better for young people to avoid long periods without work if they can. But it is also true that low quality work can harm mental health and – where people take work at a lower skill level – can lead to poorer quality work in future.  

Evidence indicates that quality employment services for young people are built around each young person’s interests and capabilities. Services that are tailored to the individual ensure that the pathway from unemployment to employment is as smooth as possible and that young people find themselves in work that is secure and meaningful to them.

In times like these, it’s important to remember and to highlight the crucial role that good practice youth employment services play in driving better employment outcomes for young people. Employment outcomes that not only increase productivity in the economy but perhaps more importantly actually matter to the young people being supported.

Youth employment services that are tailored to the individual and diverse needs of participants, and that connect young people to quality jobs and meaningful work are uniquely positioned to drive these outcomes, particularly for young people experiencing disadvantage.

Evidence informed model of good practice

For the last two years, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside some of these services to really understand what it is that makes them so effective. Our project team has worked with industry experts, drawn on international evidence and developed case study examples of over 20 effective youth employment services across Australia.

The findings from this work have been used to develop Review for Outcomes – a Toolkit and online Platform to inform youth employment practitioners, funders and policy makers knowledge and choices about current best practices in youth employment service design, delivery and measurement. 

For practitioners, Review brings together a list of ten features that are common to effective youth employment services and which are important to include in the design and delivery of services. The features also provide those who fund and deliver youth employment services with a clear and simple set of criteria against which to measure and continuously improve services for young people to improve their employment outcomes.  

For service providers who are unable to or do not include all ten features within their direct service delivery, Review provides an opportunity to collaborate and partner with other stakeholders and sectors to ensure that young people are provided the necessary wrap-around support to ensure positive long-term effects.  

Young people’s perspectives on service delivery and the use of data to strengthen services

The Review model of good practice places young people’s voices at the centre. Now more than ever, it’s important that we listen to young people and give them the space to share their perspectives as partners and participants in all phases of service design, delivery and measurement. For service providers committed to delivering the best possible outcomes for young people, collecting regular feedback about what is working well and what isn’t, is essential.  

To enable service providers to capture consistent and valuable feedback from young people, without adding burden to practitioners, we have co-designed an online Outcomes Management Platform, specifically for youth employment services. The Review Platform enables youth employment services to be informed by the best available data, including the perspectives of young people. The data collected can be used to understand and demonstrate the effectiveness of a program and to inform quality improvement plans and changes to services over time.  

The need for good practice youth employment services is now

The last six months have highlighted the importance of youth employment initiatives implementing good practice within their delivery and that these services will be essential for young people in the recovery and beyond. While some services have been able to forge ahead, others have had to pause or adapt, and even more are being designed and developed to better meet the needs of young people. There is an opportunity now for all youth employment services to review and improve practice with a focus on data and youth perspectives to drive better outcomes.

Our work with Review has shown that organisations and practitioners that deliver services for a handful of young people a year, up to those that support young people in the hundreds see value in youth focussed practice to support an inclusive recovery. Providers are implementing the Review Platform to design new programs that are responsive to the young people they support, while others are implementing the tools to review and improve existing programs so that they can continue to deliver services that meet the needs and aspirations of their participants.

As we continue to scale the tools to a larger group of services and practitioners, I look forward to connecting, leveraging and supporting our network of users to collect and share examples of good practice in youth employment. Let’s share and learn from one another so that we can deliver quality employment services to the young people of Australia. The time for good practice is now.

To access the Review Tools and Resources and for more information about the Review Platform visit www.reviewforoutcomes.com.au or email [email protected].

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