First published with The Courier –

Ballarat has the second lowest youth unemployment rate in Australia, according to a new report.

While it painted a dire picture for some areas of regional Australia with youth unemployment above 15 per cent, Ballarat has managed to buck the trend.

The youth unemployment rate in Ballarat dropped 9.9 per cent in the past two years.

It was recorded at 6.6 per cent in January 2018, compared to 16.5 per cent in January 2016, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

While the figures point to a healthy jobs sector, employment providers have shared concerns Ballarat’s young people are being underemployed.

Youth support organisation Highlands LLEN executive officer Jannine Bennett said more young people in Ballarat went straight into the workforce rather than going on to higher study after leaving school, but she was concerned most went into part time rather than full time work.

“Almost 25 per cent of kids who finish Year 12 end up employed in Ballarat, whereas in Victoria it is 17.7 per cent. But in Ballarat 8 per cent are employed full time, and 17 per cent part time,” she said.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence analysed Australian Bureau of Statistics data for its report titled ‘An unfair Australia?’, which warned the story of youth employment had become ‘a tale of two Australias’.

It found 55 of the total of 87 regions across the country were burdened by youth unemployment rates above 11 per cent, while other areas like Ballarat and Warrnambool (7.5 per cent) sat closer to the overall unemployment rate.

The overall national unemployment rate, which includes all age groups, is 5.5 per cent, according to the Bureau of Statistics.

Ballarat Regional Trades and Labour Council secretary Brett Edgington said while it was great to see Ballarat doing well in the instance of youth unemployment, the rate remained above the unemployment figure for the rest of the population.

“It is still not easy for kids to get jobs in the Ballarat region, but great to see more and more entering the workforce,” he said.

Suburbs in Melbourne’s west have topped the list for highest areas of youth unemployment in Victoria, while the Bendigo region has come in third worst in the state with a youth unemployment rate of 16.2 per cent.

Highlands LLEN education engagement coordinator Asha Buckmaster said there had been significant investment in the region over the past two years, both from state and federal governments, in programs that support young people to find and maintain suitable employment.

But Ms Buckmaster said there was always work to be done to improve youth employment.

“Appropriate careers education, parent support and the willingness of local businesses and organisations to invest in young people must be maintained and strengthened in order for Ballarat to continue to see a downturn in youth unemployment rates,” she said.

Young people are our future work force.

Commerce Ballarat chairman David Wright said while there was not enough detail to fully understand the reason for Ballarat’s improvement in youth employment, it could potentially be attributed to a strong manufacturing sector and growth in the hospitality and retail sector.

City of Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh said investment into Ballarat in the past few years could have contributed to the drop in youth unemployment

“Over the past two years we have had unprecedented investment into the city with a range of projects including Ballarat West Employment Zone (BWEZ), Ballarat West Growth Area and the delivery of the CBD Strategy. The local construction and manufacturing industries have also reported a significant increase in activity over the past 12 months,” she said.

“This has strengthened local investor confidence, and moving forward this will only increase with the delivery of government and council projects like GovHub, Creative City Strategy and the Bakery Hill Master Plan.

“By increasing youth employment opportunities, we are also ensuring young people don’t have to make sacrifices by moving away from home to find employment.

“We are encouraging more young people to make their home in regional Victoria.”