Hunter youth unemployment has jumped from 5.8 per cent to 16.8 per cent within 18 months.
The alarming figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics refer to 15- to 24-year-olds in the lower Hunter outside Newcastle between January, 2013, and June, 2014.
The statistics formed the basis for Youth Express CEO Julie Eldridge’s appeal to Maitland businesses this week to support her organisation, which connects young people with employment opportunities.
Ms Eldridge said the not-for-profit organisation would lose its federal government funding from December.
This represented about 70 per cent its operating costs.
She said the sharp increase in unemployment, changes to youth unemployment entitlements from the government and withdrawal of
funding from organisations such as Youth Express signalled a bleak outlook for the region.
Youth Express has launched a -sponsorship program for businesses to contribute funding in exchange for benefits and help connect with young people who are looking for work.
“What we are achieving at this point in time will stop dead [if the funding is not replaced],” Ms Eldridge said.
“It’s much broader than getting a kid a job. It’s about engagement and educating the educators.
“I struggle to understand how investing in young people can cease. We need to ask the community to support young people.”
Ms Eldridge said the cycle of unemployment could lead to a shortage in skilled workers in the future, which would be a problem for Hunter businesses.
“I think the economic downturn in the Hunter has been significant,” she said.
“When people are being laid off, employers certainly aren’t employing young people.”
Youth unemployment dropped from 15.1 per cent to 10.7 per cent on the Mid North Coast during the same period, while there was a drop from 18.6 per cent to 10.8 per cent in Newcastle and the Central Coast.
Contact Youth Express on 4931 2777 for more information about becoming a sponsor and connecting with young people who are looking for work.