While over-50s say the odds are stacked against them when it comes to getting a job, the going is equally tough for those at the other end of the age spectrum – school leavers and young people with minimal work experience.
Older Aussies believe ageism and a risk-averse labour market are some of the reasons they’re out of favour with employers. But why are Australian businesses also saying no to the notion of taking on and training up a young ‘un?
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Too expensive and too much aggro, says the founder of the MiniMovers removalist chain, Mike O’Hagan, who used to pride himself on giving a couple of school leavers a go each year.
“A big reason we stopped was because it was costing more for adult wages to manage and train the young worker than we could afford,” O’Hagan says.
“We’re a small business and small businesses don’t have structured training processes – they use the passive knowledge of other workers to train people.”
King hit by the GFC which saw the firm’s turnover contract by 60 per cent, O’Hagan says he was forced to outsource most of his administration work to the Philippines and tighten up on local staffing costs.
“When you have a downturn in the market . . . hiring young people is going to be one of the first things you stop,” he says.
The lacklustre work ethic and entitlement mentality of the latest Me Generation have also soured his attitude in recent years.
Many youngsters have had their sights set too high, both at school and at home, and view a good job as their right, regardless of their ability, O’Hagan says.
He believes they’re unwilling to accept a role at the bottom and won’t stick it out if you do give them a start.
“They’re not prepared to wash dishes any more because they’ve been aiming too high,” O’Hagan says.
“You see them resign before they even have another job because of their expectations.”
For O’Hagan, the final straw was when the parents of his last junior worker gave both him and their son a hard time about the pay rate on offer.
‘They thought we were using cheap labour – I found that quite offensive,” O’Hagan says.
“He was nowhere near worth the pay of an adult. You can’t talk to the parents but they were making noise in the background.”
Latest jobless figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggest plenty of employers share O’Hagan’s views, given the growing number of youngsters languishing in the job queue.
The national youth unemployment rate for 15 to 24 year olds looking for work has risen to a 12 year high of 13.1 per cent, more than double the general unemployment rate of 5.8 per cent.
Construction industry veteran and SolutionWise business consultant Marshall Cusworth believes a swing away from on-the-job training means many employers no longer feel up to the task of training a youngster from scratch.
“We’d all like to have people coming to our workforce that start with some skills,” Cusworth says.
In uncertain times, older workers hired casually, who can hit the ground running, are a safer and more cost effective bet than young people who require extensive mentoring and supervision, he says.
And don’t get him started on the attitude thing. While our forebears expected to work hard to make a buck, many of today’s “silver spooners” squeal if they’re asked to turn up early or work back late to get a job done, Cusworth says.
“Too many young people are coming into the workforce expectant of too much.”
Kids who’ve seen their parents on Struggle Street are often the best bet, agrees Peter Coronica, the former long-time owner of Melbourne’s Café Florentine.
He’s given more than 1000 young adults a start during his years in the hospitality industry and steers clear of those who’ve had too much handed to them.
Coronica admits to Googling the addresses of applicants to check for swimming pools and tennis courts and says mention of a lavish holiday home somewhere is a sure bet they’ll quit before Christmas.
“If they’re from too affluent a family, you know they won’t work hard,” he says.
“They think they’re too good to be a waiter.
“They treat work like a game of hopscotch . . . they’re often searching for something that doesn’t exist.”
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