The past two years have been difficult for young people, and particularly for young people experiencing homelessness or severe disadvantage. Sectors of the economy which employ young people (retail, hospitality, arts, recreation and micro enterprises) were shut down, and education opportunities disrupted, compounding already high unemployment rates for certain cohorts including migrant and refugee communities. As the economy has opened up marginalised young people have been hard hit by rising rents and a return to below poverty line income supports, they need targeted opportunities.
Over the past 20 years the social enterprise sector has flourished, as social entrepreneurs have sought to provide sustainable solutions, using their ingenuity, to confront government social policy failures, serving excluded and vulnerable populations. These communities have been most at risk to the impacts of COVID-19. Decades of work and progress are at stake due to this global pandemic. At the same time the pandemic has exposed systemic inequalities, and undermined progress tackling them.
Due to the lockdown of large parts of society and social distancing, small social enterprise businesses have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. These businesses are over-represented in the hardest-hit sectors such as retail, hospitality, food services, entertainment services, and construction. Trading opportunities have been denied, resulting in the inability to support their vulnerable workers and clients. Social entrepreneurs have been battling at the forefront of this pandemic, trying to stay afloat, yet funding support has been challenging as funders prioritised emergency responses.
With over 42,000 young people seeking help from homelessness services in 2020-21 and a worsening affordable housing crisis, it is vital that we support social enterprises to continue to provide job training, readiness and pathways programs in a difficult jobs market. That’s why in March and April our focus has been on supporting this sector.
“Despite a high number of advertised hospitality positions and employers facing challenges filling them, “for people facing barriers to work including people with disability and people who didn’t finish year 12, finding a job is harder than ever before and rates of underemployment remain high” (Anglicare Australia, Jobs Availability Snapshot 2021). This reinforces the need to develop and maintain a localised linkage network of employers, education providers and vulnerable job seekers to increase social, civic and economic participation across all sectors. Our program provides training opportunities to up-skill in a high-demand industry, and support vulnerable job seekers such as First Nations youth with a foot in the door by connecting them to directly to hospitality traders.”
Mahira Sobral, Moon Rabbit Café (Previous StreetSmart Grant recipient)
From reports, such as The Centre for Multicultural Youth’s “Locked Down and Locked Out: The impact of COVID-19 on employment for young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds in Victoria (June 2020)”, we know the importance of access to paid work experience and internships, and education initiatives that help young people understand career options, pathways to employment, and expose young people to a variety of opportunities, and support in the workplace.
“By taking part in a Scarf program, our trainees gain crucial skills and experience which will allow them to more easily integrate into a business which is struggling to find staff. It is well known that hospitality (and other industries) exploit vulnerable migrant workers. Our programs also provide participants with education in Work Rights and Responsibilities, and how the Restaurant Industry Award wage system works. Empowering trainees to know their rights and responsibilities, and where to ask for help if they are experiencing discrimination or unfair work conditions, helps to curb the number of opportunistic, unethical employers taking advantage of people from refugee and migrant backgrounds.”
Hannah Brennan, SCARF Community (Previous StreetSmart Grant recipient)
On the 20th April it’s Youth Homelessness Matters Day #YHMD2022. For 19 years StreetSmart has taken an active role in funding organisations and social enterprises that support young people and our on-going SmartMeals program also partners with social enterprise businesses, and during April you can donate to help rebuild vital social enterprises who support, train and employ young people.
For Change Trainee
Lagoon Creek Trainees