Young people in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven who lost their part-time jobs in the wake of bushfires and now the coronavirus lockdown are being encouraged to learn new creative skills to earn some extra money.

Key points:

  • Youth unemployment in some parts of the Illawarra is 17.6 per cent and 13.1 per cent in the Shoalhaven
  • The Federal Government has acknowledged the issue by including the Illawarra and Shoalhaven in the new Local Jobs Program
  • Youth workers in the region say the community needs to back its young people

This week they held a market stall, run by headspace and youth support organisation Sonder Youth to sell the goods they have been making and creating, and there are plans to hold more markets in the coming months.

School student Charlotte Walker has started creating and making plastic-free alternatives such as metal drink bottles and beeswax wraps.

She said she was excited to be given a platform to make changes.

“We have spent so much time away from school and away from our friends, so it is nice to see people from the local community coming to support us,” she said.

“I know there have been definite losses with COVID-19 and heaps of my friends have lost their jobs.

Program director at Sonder Youth Avalon Bourne said the market gave local young people a sense of purpose and direction.

“There are a lot of young people who have question marks around how they’re going to save for university or their first car,” she said.

“It is significant to see our community backing our young people.

School student Jasmine Klimiuk is part of Charlotte Walker’s group Bio Enviro, which has started selling products to minimise single-use plastic waste.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

Highest youth unemployment rates in the state

The Illawarra and Shoalhaven have some of the highest unemployment statistics in New South Wales.

The youth unemployment average is 11.7 per cent, with up to 17.6 per cent of young people unemployed in some parts of the two regions.

The Federal Government has responded to the high unemployment rates by announcing the Local Jobs Program as part of its COVID-19 response.

The $62.8 million program will target 25 regions around the country with high unemployment rates, including the Illawarra and Shoalhaven.

Australian employment facilitator for the South Coast Andrew Wales said the program would have a lot less bureaucracy than other job-boosting programs in the past.

“The nature of government programs is there is a lot of bureaucracy organisations need to work through.

“A lot of that has been removed now and organisations will be able to get funding without too many hoops to jump through,” he said.

It will be in place until 2022.

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