Victoria University vice-chancellor and research co-author Professor Peter Dawkins said without swift action Australia faced an explosion of young people who are not in employment, education or training.
“It’s alarming. The next wave will come at the start of 2021 when an additional 120,000 young people graduate from education with gloomy job prospects,” he said.
Hannah Easdale, 22, lost all three of her part-time jobs in hospitality, entertainment and events at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.
Studying a bachelor of business at RMIT, she is concerned about both her short and long-term job prospects.
“I’m really stressed,” she said.
“I was lucky I was able to get government support but when that runs out what’s my next option?
“There’ll be thousands of people my age with the same skills applying for the same jobs, and there’ll be fewer jobs.”
She said she is putting her energy into study and building her own small business to create work.
The Mitchell Institute researchers have proposed a national job cadet program as a way to tackle the looming crisis.
The program would offer wage subsidies and incentives to employers to hire young people while offering practical training.
It would work alongside existing apprenticeship initiatives and expand to new industries as well as offering shorter programs for young people with a higher existing skill level.
The federal government has so far invested in a $2.5 billion JobTrainer package for tackling youth unemployment, which hit a rate of 16.4 per cent in June.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence Transition to Work program, which helps young people aged 15-24 in parts of greater Melbourne, has experienced an influx in applicants since the start of the pandemic.
“Every young person who has found themselves out of work or out of study during this period should be offered help,” said program manager Rebecca Willmott.
“They are 100 per cent committed to finding work; even in the middle of all this.”
University of Melbourne economics professor Jeff Borland said the effects of entering the job market during a downturn could have an effect called “scarring”.
“It means on average they’re less likely to be in work, there’s evidence the effect on your earnings could persist for up to a decade, there’s long-term effects on their mental health and their confidence,” he said.
Professor Borland supported the proposed cadet program saying it would not only have short-term benefits for coronavirus recovery but could give young people the skills to help gain future employment.
Anna is an education reporter at The Age.