Young People & the Future of the Workforce

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Topics Age
United Nations International Youth Day

The transition for young people between full-time education and full-time work is increasingly uncertain. The Foundation for Young Australians reported in 2018 that young Australians increasingly face a number of significant barriers when seeking full time jobs, whereby half the nation’s 25 year olds are unable to secure full-time employment, despite 60 per cent holding post-school qualifications.

For International Youth Day last year, we highlighted the limited evidence of differences in generational work behaviours and debunked the myths that millennials are particularly entitled, lazy and narcissistic compared to other generations.

Research suggests that organisations should urge caution in implementing workplace strategies that target or emphasise “unique” values and characteristics of generations - in fact, generational stereotypes in the workplace can be harmful to younger workers. According to the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2018 diversity and flexibility are key to loyalty in the workplace.

This year DCA's resident early-career starters, Membership Advisor, Daniella Segal and Governance, Policy and Research Officer, Karla Dunbar decided to talk to five early career-starters about their transition into the workforce, barriers they have experienced and how they believe organisations can create more inclusive workplaces for young people. 

We also reached out to our members to hear from the early career starters in their workplaces.

Rebecca Wong

Rebecca Wong - Head and shoulders photographMy name is Rebecca, and I graduated from the University of Sydney in 2017 with a combined Arts/Law degree.

I am currently working as an assistant to a judge in the Dust Diseases Tribunal and the District Court of NSW. I have been in full time employment for approximately a month.

As a blind early career starter, flexibility is an organisational value which is of particular importance to me. Of course, hiring processes, official policies and codes of conduct have a role to play in promoting diversity and inclusion in an employment context. However, in my experience, the key factor in ensuring inclusivity is a culture of openness to doing work in new and different ways, in order to accommodate the needs and working styles of all employees and to harness the valuable skills and perspectives they have to offer.

I believe young people have the potential to create and shape flexible workplaces, as they are less wedded to established processes and ways of thinking. Most of the barriers I have personally faced while job-seeking have been attitudinal.

The organisations in which I felt most welcome were ones which encouraged curiosity and open-mindedness among all their employees, regardless of rank or pay grade.

Brayden Crane

Brayden Crane - Head and shoulders photographUpon joining the Pride in Diversity team I have a demonstrated history working in both financial services and retail industries. I have a strong leadership background and a passion for creating sustainable change in the workplace to ensure everybody is comfortable, confident and safe to be their authentic selves. Prior to joining the Pride in Diversity team I was the Victorian Lead for Commonwealth Bank’s LGBTI network, Unity. As part of this role I engaged with senior leaders and stakeholders to build on Unity’s increased visibility, inclusion and engagement in the Victorian branch network. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Sport Psychology, while also co-majoring in Sociology from Swinburne University of Technology, as well as Education Support: Teacher Aide/Integration Aide qualifications from Monash University.  

How important is an organisation’s diversity and inclusion culture to you, when applying for a position / job / graduate program?

I was exposed to the wonders and influence of an inclusive culture during my time at CBA which lead to me getting more involved with D&I initiatives throughout the organisation. I now know that I shouldn’t and won’t settle for a position in an organisation that does not have a genuine interest and commitment in their D&I strategy, as I know as a gay man, that being able to be my true and authentic self at work, makes me more productive and happier to come to work each day.

 What do you look for in terms of organisation culture?

When looking at potential organisations to work for, I expect to see not only a diverse culture (i.e. gender, cultural background, ethnicity, religious faiths, sexes, age and sexualities) but an inclusive culture where active efforts are made to ensure every area of diversity's contribution is encouraged, valued and praised. Diversity of thought is crucial for not only an organisation's employee culture, but also an organisation's success.   

What kind of barriers have you experienced when entering the workforce as a young career starter?

I have found during my very early career life that because of my age, my opinion and input was not as valued as somebody in the same role but older in age than I. This can have negative influence on young people’s motivation in the workplace if they believe they are not valued for what they bring to the role, team and organisation as a whole. In some cases, such as the one I experienced, actually motivated me to prove myself even more by actively showcasing my contributions and capabilities in meetings and conferences to ensure my credibility was equal to those around me.

How can employers create a more inclusive workplace culture for their future early career job applicants or graduates?

Employers can provide a more inclusive workplace culture for future younger employees by being open to and actively seeking out younger candidates during recruitment. By doing so, it shows the value the organisation holds in younger employees and their contribution to the business vision and values. This must of course also be reflected in their everyday way of functioning.  Development planning has been crucial in my career path to date, and I believe that an organisation that is serious about developing their staff, including their younger ranks, is planning for success. Failing to plan, is planning to fail.

How do you see young career seekers and early career starters shaping the future of work?

Young career seekers and early career starters have the energy and the thirst for success. Every young person I have worked with in my professional career journey so far have had vast and varying perspectives on the world, on how people think, how to approach different issues, and develop credible and influential solutions to problems. If organisations are not relevant to their prospective employees, they will not attract the ideal candidates in order for organisation success.

Tahlia Biggs

Tahlia Biggs - Head and torso photograph wearing Richmond Football Club topMy name is Tahlia Biggs, I am a proud Barkindji and Ngiyampaa woman, my mob are from North-West NSW but I was born and raised in Albury/Wodonga on Wiradjuri and Dhudhuroa country. I finished my VCE in 2015 then took a year off to work part-time in hospitality. I then moved to Melbourne for work at the start of 2017. I was employed casually at Crown Resorts then also became employed full-time at Richmond Football Club in the Korin Gamadji Institute (meaning Grow & Emerge in the local Woi-wurrung language). My role as Program Coordinator is to recruit Indigenous Youth from across the state for our REAL Programs (Richmond Emerging Aboriginal Leadership).

How important is an organisation’s diversity and inclusion culture to you, when applying for a position / job / graduate program?

I need to feel comfortable and supported in my workplace so that I can be myself and perform at my best. Connecting with people from all walks of life is sometimes the most exciting part of my day, I find it humbling to listen to other people’s life stories.

What do you look for in terms of organisation culture?

I look at what kind of leader the CEO is and how they display their leadership qualities. I look at how aware the workplace is in terms of social issues and how they interact with or acknowledge Indigenous peoples. Work is where you will spend a huge chunk of your day and as a human being you have the right to feel safe, supported and included.

What kind of barriers have you experienced when entering the workforce as a young career starter?

The role that I am currently in, initially another candidate was picked due to the fact that they had already been in a similar role whereas I had no experience, so I thought I had lucked out on my dream job. In my workplace there a lot of people who are further along in their careers and lives and I am the youngest within my team and my department.

How can employers create a more inclusive workplace culture for their future early career job applicants or graduates?

Just being aware that they are in the early stages of their working life and are still working out how the industry works. Allowing flexibility where there is room to be, is going to be helpful and will allow them to relax and be productive.

How do you see young career seekers and early career starters shaping the future of work?

I think the next generation of career starters will have a big role in shaping how organisations and business can work towards being more environmentally sustainable. I think there will be more flexibility for a life-work balance for employees as technology advances.

Joel Lazar

Joel Lazar - Head & shoulders photographMost of my schooling was at a Melbourne-based Jewish school, I then studied Arts/Law (with an Arts major in Creative Writing and minor in Philosophy/Theology) at Monash University. My first job out of uni was a graduate at a mid-tier commercial law firm, and I became a practising lawyer through that firm. I then sought a more values-aligned job, and in May 2018 took on a Head of Operations role with an NGO called The Man Cave which delivers preventative mental health and emotional intelligence programs for adolescent boys and young men, as well as trainings to parents and teachers of those young men. 

How important is an organisation’s diversity and inclusion culture to you, when applying for a position / job / graduate program?

When fresh out of uni it wasn't that important to me. I assumed that organisations were conforming to non-discrimination laws, and I was more focused on just beginning my career as best I could. I also felt I had little control over the culture, values or policies of a large law firm and probably didn't think it would help my application to ask the firm's HR team about their commitment to diversity for fear of explicit (or unspoken) backlash. "This leftie will just cause trouble if we hire him", is what they might say. 

Now it's one of the key attributes I look at when applying for a job. Especially in a small organisation where everyone's contribution is greatly felt, I see the value that diverse perspectives and experiences bring, to problem solving and idea generation and to identify "blind spots" that can arise from echo chambers. 

What do you look for in terms of organisation culture?

I look for authentic, open and honest communication between staff, such that people feel entirely comfortable to bring their full selves to work. That includes feeling comfortable, and indeed encouraged, to share about one's culture, ethnicity, identity, family and personal aspirations. 

What kind of barriers have you experienced when entering the workforce as a young career starter?

The major barrier was a lack of true guidance about who I wanted to become, what future I wanted for myself and the generations after me, and what kind of careers might get me there. There was far too much emphasis by careers counsellors and at university open days about simply enrolling for the "best" course you could with the VCE marks you got, which can be a recipe for dissatisfaction and disappointment. 

How can employers create a more inclusive workplace culture for their future early career job applicants or graduates?

The first step is having people within the workplace appreciate and derive benefit from diversity. Once that happens, the benefit of diversity will hopefully trickle into broader social discourse, as people begin talking about the social richness of their workplaces. And once that happens, early career job applicants will hopefully seek out diverse workplaces when applying for jobs.

How is this achieved? Perhaps by genuinely embedding diversity in a workplace culture and practice - from CEOs to HR to the employees themselves - and publicising as much in order to create a new social benchmark for other companies to strive for. In highly competitive markets, companies will be finding ways to differentiate themselves from the competition in order to attract the best graduates. One key way of doing this is to embrace diversity as a hallmark of culture. More relevant is that it actually happens.

How do you see young career seekers and early career starters shaping the future of work?

The more younger career seekers ask about diverse workplaces, the more employers will begin to serve those needs. With the force of social media and technology, young career seekers are more than ever able to use the force of large groups to express those desires and needs and employers would be short-sighted not to listen carefully. Early career starters are also expecting to change jobs regularly. That trend will cause employers to seriously consider whether the workplaces they build create a sense of belonging and loyalty and grant new employees robust opportunities to grow. 

Mayuri Nathoo

Mayuri Nathoo - Head and shoulders photographNavigating at Sea

Ten years ago, I arrived in Australia, from a small island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean to do my Bachelor in Engineering at Monash University. Upon graduation, I started working at engineering and advisory consultancy, Aurecon. I have now been in the workforce for 5 years, in a project management role working on some of Australia’s most exciting infrastructure projects.

Starting out as a graduate was daunting, just like being thrown into the ocean for the first time - I questioned my decisions, was not confident to voice out my opinions and above all, felt intimidated by being a culturally diverse female in a male dominated environment. However, the lifeguards at Aurecon were there to guide me. I was in an environment where I was being encouraged to speak up, where my opinion was valued and I was made to be part of a team. New technologies and technical skills will keep on evolving, but the young humans at the core of organisations is the beating heart that keep them vibrant and resilient. Providing a culture that is inclusive of all, celebrate the differences and supporting career growth are the most important aspects that companies nowadays need to embrace.

At Aurecon, I led our young professionals network, Limelight, globally – coordinating 27 chapters from 8 different countries to drive professional development and input into Aurecon’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. Limelight provides a platform for young leaders to share our ideas for change and today’s rising stars value this opportunity to have a voice. Furthermore, bringing the diversity of thought to the table with employees of different gender, culture and age is the surest way of building a solid foundation. At Aurecon, we strongly believe that creativity and innovation – fundamental aspects of engineering and design – are generated through diversity of thought, which can only be achieved by having different people of race, age and gender working on teams. We have female hiring targets to ensure we are increasing number of female engineers and a range of initiatives to create a more diverse and inclusive organisation, such as our Inclusive Leadership line manager training program and Diversity Walk activity that encourages role play amongst employees to truly understand diversity in the workplace from different perspectives.  In the future, as the next generation of employees enter the workforce, let’s be clear that flexibility will no longer be an option but a requirement, coerce and command leadership styles will be what drives everyone out the door and providing a voice and platform for young professionals will be the most effective way of recognising high potential employees.

Young professionals about to jump into the ocean that is the workforce should understand they have the power to shape their workplace culture to embrace inclusivity. With the next generation entering the workforce with the nothing-is-impossible attitude, organisations will have no choice but to adapt and become inclusive of all to keep thriving, this can only be for the best for everyone in communities.

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