YOUNG women and those hoping to start a career in the trades are the hardest hit in new data showing more than 14 per cent of young people in the south-west are unemployed.
The stark warning from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals the region has the third highest youth unemployment figure in the state, surpassed only by Hume in the state’s north-east and Melbourne’s north-west.
About 14.5 per cent of young people aged 15 to 24 are out of work in the region covering Warrnambool, Colac, Portland and Hamilton.
The figures mirror Warrnambool City Council’s 2013 health and wellbeing data, which showed a 14 per cent jobless rate in 15 to 19-year-olds.
The spotlight is on the region’s poor year 12 completion rate, which sat at just 57 per cent in 2011 — 17.4 per cent below the state average.
Employer groups say fixing that could resolve a large part of the region’s jobs woes.
Western District Employment Access (WDEA) chief executive officer Mick White said he was at a loss over how to explain the high numbers in the region.
“I don’t think you can put a finger on it. Youth unemployment has always been high, but it’s much higher in our region,” Mr White said. “The expectations of people need to be altered.
“A growing number of people are required in aged care fields and community welfare. I think we need to market that better to young people.
“It’s not an easy challenge.
“Retail is going backwards in Warrnambool like everywhere else.”
Westvic Staffing Solutions chief executive officer Miles Coverdale said young job seekers had suffered a double blow with the removal of training funding as well as a downturn in the economy.
Mr Coverdale said changes to TAFE funding in retail and hospitality had left many people worse off, particularly women.
“That has had a real impact on young women in the region,” he said. He said a downturn in the construction sector had seen new apprenticeships dry up.
“While we’ve experienced a similar number of traineeships to last year, the number of apprenticeships has decreased,” he said.
With fewer trades jobs in the market, Mr Coverdale said school-based apprenticeships needed to be “promoted more heavily”, while a “fine-tuning of incentive arrangements” would help employers.
Brotherhood of St Laurence executive director Tony Nicholson said the youth unemployment figure was as high as 21 per cent in parts of the country.
The charity is calling for a national strategy to deal with the crisis.