Two reports are looking at the effects of COVID on young people: one by Year13 and YouthSense another by NCVER.

The first focuses on how COVID has upended their Year 12, and possibly their futures, while the other (NCVER’s) looks at how VET can help young people in a post-COVID recovery.

Upending Year 12?

Year13 advises many young Australians each year, “helping them to navigate their post-school transition and ultimately find more meaningful employment.” YouthSense “is a youth insights platform focused on educating employers, brands, government, teachers, career advisors and parents on best practices when aiding youth through their post-school transition.” The study drew on surveys of Year 12s in late 2020, with 2,270 responses, which the report breaks down demographically. All those responding were in their final year of school with 21% having a CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) background, 15% being low SES or LGBTQIA and 7% having a disability.  In addition, 4% identified as being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Almost all (96%) reported that they had to do remote learning for about one to three months which they didn’t enjoy (about 70% in each case) and they missed the face to face aspects of learning (87%) and school events like carnivals, graduation ceremonies, sport and performances (94%). A majority felt it had negatively impacted their mental health (79%), led to a worsened school experience (67%) and changed their post-school plans (70%), and maybe the course they would study. 80% said they are worried it will be harder to find or maintain a job.

All in all, the experiences of COVID were not good for these Year 12s! But, on the upside, 40% “found a new passion or hobby during the coronavirus pandemic.”

The paper also looks at how educators and institutions can help students with their post Year 12 planning and decisions, especially through physical and online expos such as live webinars and small online meetings.

In summary, the report suggests that what they call the ‘new-collar worker’ “will be defined by their adaptability in the face of change and how they use their personal and enterprise skills to overcome these obstacles and the ever-changing employment landscape.” And finally,

“As the class of 2020 now intimately knows, nothing in this world is certain. Nothing lasts forever. But being forged in the fire of the coronavirus pandemic will make them more agile and adaptive because they simply had no other choice than to be. By learning how to use their innate skills and passions to traverse this increasingly uncertain world of work before them, the class of 2020 are now more ready than anyone to meet these challenges head on. Even if they don’t know it yet.”

So, what can VET offer?

This is an issue as the Year13 paper was very university focussed!! NCVER’s paper, entitled “What VET can offer to COVID-19 youth unemployment recovery?” and authored by Joanne Waugh and Michelle Circelli, suggests that “VET offers young people promising futures through vocational pathways in school, individualised career guidance and work-based training.”  However, “transitions into the workforce are made more challenging by the limited work opportunities available during and after a recession” like COVID 19. Services need to be client-centred and co-ordinated and that can be problematic in Australian VET, the report suggests. The report also points out that:

“A key element of success for vocational pathways in schools is well-informed and personalised career guidance, another strategy that stands to gain significantly from client-centred and secure funding.”

It concludes that the challenges that need to be overcome include “coordination of policy and services; access to expertise in training and career advisory services; and resources to plan and develop long-term programs.”

The authors also suggest two other needs: (1) to learn from the past and (2) the need to evaluate the effectiveness of policies and practices. Not doing this, they suggest, “has hampered opportunities to learn from and improve on these initiatives, potentially leading to a repeat of past mistakes.” Very true!