The state government has thrown an Illawarra-youth employment program a lifeline, announcing funding to ensure the program will run for another two years as youth unemployment in the region remains stubbornly high.
IllawarraYES, or Illawarra Youth Employment Strategy, has been connecting young people with employers via short courses that prepare young people for further training or employment since 2016.
Minister for the Illawarra and South Coast Ryan Park announced an additional $700,000 for the program at Wollongong emergency training provider Risk Response and Rescue on Wednesday.
The funding will cover a program coordinator, employed by Business Illawarra, and the cost of training and upskilling over 500 young people across the next two years.
Programs will be delivered in the Illawarra and on the South Coast.
For program graduate Arnhem Campbell, 22, his four week placement with Risk Response and Rescue delivered skills and training at his pace, rather than one size fits all approach.
"In this course they asked us, do you want us to slow down, do you want help," he said.
"They run it at a level that's not hard for us to understand and get the knowledge."
Fellow graduate Baylie Hamilton, 17, took up the program out of high school, and has already been offered a traineeship with Wollongong scaffolding service KJ Industrial Scaffolding.
"I enjoyed it heaps, it was very hands on," he said.
Despite the Illawarra having record low unemployment, youth unemployment remains stubbornly high at 5.6 per cent, more than double the regional average. IllawarraYES program coordinator Daniel Bennett said the lingering effects of the pandemic had disrupted pathways between schooling, training and employment.
"The short, sharp courses give them a taster, listen to employers, find out what the jobs are like and understand the industry before committing to a full time apprenticeship or traineeship," he said.
Currently, the program supports young people between 15-24 to find jobs and training in in-demand sectors, including construction, aged care and early childhood education.
Mr Park said based on the outcomes of the program so far, funding would ensure the strategy continues for the next two years.
"This is a program that is working, that addresses a need in the Illawarra, but more important it's a program that is connecting young people with skills, professional development opportunities, mentoring and support to enable them to go from training into employment."
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