Half of young Gold Coast residents believe there are barriers which will prevent them reaching their goals after school.
The 2015 Mission Australia Youth Survey, the largest of its kind, includes responses from nearly 19,000 young Australians aged 15-19 years old.
Of those, just over 4000 young Queenslanders responded to the survey and 108 responses were from the Gold Coast region.
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This year includes a special focus on what barriers young people felt prevented them from reaching their work and study goals.
Of the Gold Coast respondents, 49.0% felt there would be barriers to the achievement of their study/work goals, with a greater proportion of females (52.5%) than males (42.9%) reporting the presence of these barriers. This was in line with the findings nationally.
The top three barriers young people from the Gold Coast saw impacting the achievement of their study/work goals after school were financial difficulty, academic ability, and lack of jobs (24.1%, 18.5% and 15.7% respectively).
Interestingly, young people on the Gold Coast were more likely to see financial difficulty as a barrier to the achievement of their study/work goals after school, compared to the state average (19.1%).
The 2015 Youth Survey also found that alcohol and drugs were the biggest concerns facing young Gold Coast residents at 25.3% – in line with the nation and the state (25.1%).
But young Gold Coast residents are significantly more concerned about bullying at 24.2% compared with the Queensland figure (9.4%).
Young Gold Coast residents report coping with stress, body image and depression as their top three biggest personal concerns.
Mission Australia Queensland state director Darren Young said “in the context of high youth unemployment and a rapidly changing job market, this year we wanted to find out how young people felt about their futures and what may stand in their way to achieving those goals. It’s important we listen to their fears and policy makers respond accordingly”.
The prominence of financial difficulty as a barrier to young people’s goals after school is concerning as we know young people adjust their aspirations in response to financial constraints early in their school life and which may limit their options for the future.
The fact that they are continuing to report the economy and financial matters as a national concern shows that financial issues are weighing heavily on their minds as they consider their futures.
In 21st Century Australia we have to ensure the policies and supports are in place so children do not self-limit their aspirations because of financial concerns.
The knock-on effects of the Global Financial Crisis have been felt most keenly by young people.
Youth unemployment is more than double the general unemployment rate.
This seems to be born out in the findings with a lack of jobs highlighted as a barrier to further education and employment by many respondents.
Transition to work programs are essential to bridging this gap, these must include training opportunities to allow young people to gain the skills that match the needs of the local job market.
Flexible pathways need to be available for young people who too often get stranded between the bureaucratic silos of governments.
More nuanced place-based approaches should also be utilised to link young people to local industries and to provide a more coordinated approach that is responsive to local needs.
When it comes to identifying the biggest concerns facing the nation, alcohol/drugs is the top concern for the first time in several years, with 25.3% of young Gold Coast residents identifying it as an important issue.
This was also reflected in the results for the rest of Queensland.
“Alongside general concerns surrounding alcohol and drugs use in peers, this concern may reflect the permeation of the drug ice through many communities in Australia, as well as its prevalence in media and political discussions”, Mr Young said.
In particular for the Gold Coast, young residents were almost three times more concerned about bullying (24.2%) than the rest of the state (9.4%),” he said.
“Females in particular were more concerned about this with 30.2% rating it was the most important issue in Australia today.”
We’re not sure why this statistic was so high on the Gold Coast, but perhaps it reflects debates we are having at a national level, particularly around domestic and family violence.
At the same time, disappointingly young Gold Coast women were more likely (23.4% compared with 11.6%) than male respondents to identify academic ability as a barrier to achieving their post-school goals.
While we shouldn’t oversimplify such responses, it does concern me that young women “who academically achieve on par, if not better than, males” appear to be lacking confidence in their skills.
It highlights the increased need to tackle wider gender equality. Despite some progress, women are still woefully underrepresented in leadership roles across all sectors. Without strong female role models I fear young women will continue to lack the confidence to aim high and attain their goals.
Mr Young said it was heartening to see that overall young people on the Gold Coast were positive about the future, with around six in ten respondents reporting feeling positive or very positive about the future.
“Young Australians have big dreams, and so they should. But they also have very real challenges and we must ensure we are helping them to break down the barriers, real or otherwise, that will impede their success,” Mr Young said.