Hard road to work for Outback youths

THREE in ten regional youth do not have a job.

Not only does the Outback Queensland region have the highest youth unemployment percentage in the nation, it is also the fastest growing.

Recent Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals 28.4% of the region's youth are unemployed, an increase of 10.7% in 12 months.

It is an issue outgoing Longreach Mayor, Joe Owens is all too familiar with.

Mr Owens said the region was banking on a year of strong rainfall to create wealth and jobs for the unemployed community, particularly youth.

"With the drought and everything we are experiencing out here, it doesn't surprise me with the young people," he said.

"A lot of the businesses in town who used to hire young people on a casual wage would be cutting back in that employment so the fact it has risen wouldn't surprise me in the present situation.

"They are probably not hiring where they may have done four or five years ago.

"If we get good rain and a good year this tourist season, it will start to turn some of those things around."

Mr Owens said state and federal government assistance tailored to regional centres would help to bridge the abundance of unemployed youth while the region waited for rain.

He said programs like the Working Queensland Plan, which included $35 million to establish TAFE, were difficult to apply to small regional towns.

"They need to be structured slightly differently because there are no TAFE and things out this way," he said.

"If it is structured for the bigger areas, the coastal areas, then I think there is certainly room to change that structure in some way.

"We don't have TAFE out here but there are various training organisations throughout rural and remote Queensland that could benefit from a bit of adaptation."

He said targeted programs for particular outback Queensland regions would better address to jobs deficiency.

"I suppose what they could look at is if there is a particular town which is making these figures so high, maybe something they could do in a particular area instead of across the whole west," he said.

"If there are some hotspots that are particularly high for youth unemployment they centrality could look at some measures to bring it down.

"Once youth go away to seek employment, quite often they don't come back again, the government needs to look seriously at some sort of program modifying what they've got or some new program to retain those young people in western towns because they are the future of our community."

The retention of regional youth in home town jobs is a focus of Rapad Employment Services Queensland Central West general manager Tony Rayner.

Mr Rayner said seasonal work was an alternative for unemployed outback Queensland youth.

"It tends to be very seasonal work in the Central West, tourism is very strong right through the west in the tourist season from April to October and that tends to be casual employment," Mr Rayner said.

He said programs targeted towards TAFE, including the Working Queensland Plan, did not wholly fit the need of the Longreach community.

"Those funding areas that are targeted are obviously the high population areas on the eastern seaboard," he said.

"Once all the stars align it'll be easier for people to gain employment but at this time it's very tough."

The Working Queensland Plan

$50 million over three years to develop jobs of tomorrow

$34 million for TAFE

$2 million for the Queensland Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow program

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