CANBERRA MATTERS: Youth unemployment is still a serious issue

Meryl Swanson

Meryl Swanson

I have great optimism for the future of Hunter industry. Renewable energy and other high-tech industries offer opportunities we can’t even begin to imagine.

But what do we do between now and then, as our industries transition from the old to the new?

And, more to the point, how do we help our young people prepare for the workforce of the future?

I worry that our current educational system is funnelling our students towards an ATAR and a university education, or nothing.

The Hunter has a long history of high-level manufacturing that requires heavily and practically skilled workers.

But where have all the apprenticeships, and apprentices, gone?

It’s a question that has many facets and many layers. But the fact remains that youth unemployment is still a blight on the horizon of what should be the bright futures of our young.

In our electorate of Paterson it sits at 10.8 per cent, while general unemployment sits at 4.1 per cent.

I’m passionate about helping our workers and industries through this transition economic stage and that’s why I am absolutely delighted to be helping to drive a new initiative that puts the education, training and employment of our youth at the top of the agenda.

I’ve joined the Hunter Youth Transition Advisory Group and other stakeholders from industry, education, community and government.

I’ve also commissioned a report from an economics and policy specialist to drill down into the history of employment in our area and come up with a path forward we can all embrace.

I’ll keep you posted on its progress but, in the meantime, I’ve got a message for the young people of Kurri.

Don’t write off an apprenticeship. It could be your best move yet.


Speaking of transitions, the transition from coal-fired power to clean energy is one that has been making headlines.

I’ve written several times in this column about our out-of-control power bills and called on the Government to take action.

It seems the Government has finally got the message – we simply don’t have plentiful or reliable enough power to see us through another long, hot summer.

Now, many of you who read this column will know I’m the proud daughter of a coal miner. Coal fed my family.

So while I’m not against Prime Minister Turnbull using an ageing Liddell Power Station to bridge the gap between coal and renewables, I despair that the Government still has no national strategy.

This is what’s pushing our power bills up. The lack of planning and legislating for the future.​ 

Meryl Swanson is the Federal MP for Paterson


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