Tamworth: At-risk youth on the agenda

AT RISK: Homegrown program helping at-risk youth reengage with society.
AT RISK: Homegrown program helping at-risk youth reengage with society.

YOUNG people in danger of disengagement have been offered a lifeline from Tamworth stakeholders.

Youth Unemployment Agenda met with business and industry leaders on Thursday to discuss employment opportunities for young people at risk.

Organiser Russell Stewart said the landmark project is a safety net for young people.

“The idea behind the program is to put a safety net up and address young people in danger of disengaging with education so that we can get them into employment, trained up or back into study in a way they do it best,” he said.

The program is funded by the state government to address rising youth unemployment in regional Australia.

People with disabilities, Indigenous Australians, those with caring responsibilities and people from low-socioeconomic or educational communities have been identified as at-risk.

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There are a number of barriers to youth unemployment, like limited access to transport or education, drug and alcohol abuse or unstable housing.

Mr Stewart said the idea is to get input from industry leaders as to how to prepare young people for the program to get the best benefit.

“We’ve been heavily supported by principals at schools to identify the right young people – we’re not talking about young people that are bad, we’re talking about young people that are lost for drive in education or work,” he said.

“They’ll be in the workplace in areas where they have an aptitude, we’ll be making sure they’re work-fit physically and mentally because we’ve been advised by industry that some people coming into the workplace aren’t ready.”

The program targets young people age 16 to 18 that aren’t receiving government benefits.

The pilot schools include Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School and Narrabri High School.

Mr Stewart said everyone who attended the meeting had a keen interest in helping young people.

“It’s a big problem [disengagement] all over NSW, we know the principals we speak to agree with us,” he said.

“They’ve been very supportive and they agree many schools don’t have the opportunity to link closely with industry.”

Government representatives from Youth Innovation also attended the meeting to hear from local industry.

Afterward the stakeholders took a tour of Farrer High School.