Em O’Halloran, John King and Maddy Ware
29 Aug 2022
Game Changers program provided by The Huddle
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, young people aged 15-24 were already disproportionately adversely affected in the labour market. Before COVID-19, it took young people on average 2.6 years to transition from full-time education to full-time work, despite being more qualified than any previous generation. The crisis has aggravated existing disadvantage and significantly disrupted the plans and livelihoods of most young Australians.
When entering the job market, young people in this age bracket with little or no work experience are the most vulnerable. Without timely and targeted intervention, young adults looking to access the workforce are at a high risk of missing out on a secure entry into the labour market and, therefore, more likely to experience long-term unemployment and/or underemployment. Either avenue will result in financial hardship.
The ongoing economic implications of the pandemic for Australia's youth population are significant. However, these implications will be more acute for many young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. This is due to the intersection of age, the life stage of adolescence, young people's family support role and pre-existing structural barriers to accessing employment.
The objective for The Huddle is to adjust from a one-size-fits-all job placement support model to a more individualistic approach. Introducing: Game Changers - a program that creates employment opportunities within and supported by The Huddle to maximise youth engagement in paid work and strengthen employment pathways.
Betty is a 20-year-old Ethiopian-Australian and Wyndham resident, currently studying Year 12 at Tarneit Senior College. Betty first interacted with The Huddle in 2020, when she began participating in school holiday activities such as the professional barista course and MasterChef as part of the DET-funded Huddle Holidays initiative. Shortly afterwards, Betty started attending The Huddle’s after-school homework program, Study Squad, to seek free tutoring to support her with her Year 12 studies. After some time of continued involvement, The Huddle’s Education Coordinator encouraged Betty to participate in Game Changers to access individualised employment pathways support as well.
Betty connected with the Careers Coordinator in late 2021 to participate in the Game Changers program. Initially, she was very shy and reserved, barely talking throughout her initial appointments. Collectively, they identified that Betty’s immediate goals should focus on creating a resume and identifying her industries of interest.
Betty continued engaging with the Careers Coordinator in 2022 and shared that she had applied for many jobs through various online systems but was unsuccessful. The key takeaways from their sessions were a need for focus on improving her cover letter writing, finding ways to nurture her self-confidence, and learning the navigate workplace cross-cultural junctions.
Throughout ongoing one-on-one coaching with the Careers Coordinator, Betty managed to flesh out her resume with work experience, apply for her Working with Children’s Check, and began volunteering alongside The Huddle.
“I helped out and pushed myself outside my comfort zone”
Over time, The Huddle staff observed a shift in Betty’s confidence and communication skills, and watched her initiating conversations with guests, volunteers and staff. Shortly after, Betty applied for a casual employment position with the North Melbourne Football Club selling merchandise on Game Days at Marvel Stadium.
“I felt more confident applying and interviewing because I can use my recent volunteering experience to demonstrate my skills”
With the guidance of the Game Changers program, Betty was successful in gaining both confidence and employment, and now works match days and contributes to the membership team. Betty completed her first shift at the North Melbourne vs. GWS game at Marvel Stadium in June 2022. She demonstrated confidence and solid interpersonal skills during her first shift, engaging positively with NMFC staff, club members, patrons and customers.
Betty’s confidence and communication skills have improved dramatically since her first Game Changers coaching session. The Careers Coordinator shared that “…it has been a rewarding experience to witness Betty’s development and employment journey”. Betty’s pathway from participant to volunteer to an employee at NMFC demonstrates the power that individualised career coaching can have on a young person’s life.
The Game Changers coaching sessions provided Betty with access to culturally safe networks and experiences that enabled her to build her transferable skills and confidence. The program supported her to traverse the unique barriers she faced in obtaining employment and aided her in navigating the ‘unwritten’ rules of Australian workplace culture and expectations.
The Careers team at The Huddle will continue to run Game Changers to support and coach young people to harness educational work experiences to better prepare and equip themselves with the transferable skills, expertise and networks needed to integrate into the Australian workforce successfully and confidently.