- Nous Group
Youth unemployment is a stubborn problem made worse by the pandemic. Not having a job while young hampers future opportunities and entrenches disadvantage. Traditional models for job programs were not having meaningful, sustained impacts for young people.
Meanwhile, the world of work is changing. New technologies are driving fundamental shifts in the labour market and forcing us to re-evaluate what work is.
Nous and Whitelion worked together to develop innovative ways of combatting youth unemployment. Y4Y was designed to consider how opportunities available through the gig economy can be used in employment programs to improve prospects of disadvantaged young people.
We developed Y4Y over nine pilots with 80 young people. We tested ideas and iterated the design to improve the program. It involved a participatory design with young people, drawing on their insights and life experiences; design critiques from Y4Y staff; and daily feedback.
This led to a five-week program. Each week combined two days of training with two days in which participants use their enterprise skills under supervision.
Y4Y helped teams take on paid helper tasks found online, such as lawnmowing. The participants were given an office, laptop computers, a uniform allowance, tools of the trade and supporting staff.
Y4Y benefited many young people who participated. More than two in three graduating participants (68%) are in work or study after the program.
Participants with relatively low risk factors were more likely to go into employment or study, but nearly one in three (29%) participants in the two highest-risk cohorts were in work or study after the program.
Participants overwhelmingly reviewed the program positively, with more than eight in 10 reporting moderate progress or full achievement of goals in relation to knowledge, skill development, changing behaviours, getting work ready and confidence to make decisions.
The program design took an agile approach. This involved a hypothesis-led design, participant involvement, design critiques and daily feedback. Through this process, several changes were made across pilots, including a shorter length, elevating the role of the gig economy and adapting recruitment strategies.
The Y4Y model is scalable and transferable. Already, the core concepts are being used by Whitelion to implement a program for 18-to-24-year-old women exiting prisons to get jobs in IT.
There are several notable features to Y4Y:
– Financial incentives motivated participants during recruitment. Each participant was entitled to a $20 daily learning allowance and $100 in uniform costs. For many, this was vital to accessing the program.
– For most participants, the gig economy is a steppingstone. It presents risks that need to be managed through program design and staff discretion. Three staff supported the program throughout and acted as referees for young people when later applying for work.
– Y4Y staff cultivated a network of alumni across pilots who meet regularly and provide support and guidance for job and study opportunities.
The program design was supported and enhanced by a three-tiered approach to evaluation that helped shape the program throughout and understand outcomes at the end.
An iteration of the program design was launched for each pilot to test hypotheses. During each pilot 1-2 focus group discussions were conducted with participants to collect feedback in a structured environment. Regular surveys captured feedback on specific elements of the program, and regular Design Critique sessions with program staff were used to guide iteration for future pilots. Post-program data was collected on outcomes for participants to help us understand enduring impacts.
Feedback from the program was positive, with comments including: “It … has given me practical experience and confidence to apply for jobs”; “It increases your confidence every week”; “They care”.