THE high number of jobless south-west school-leavers is due in part to a lack of renewable energy investment, the state opposition claims.
Labor energy spokeswoman Lily D’Ambrosio has called on the state government to press Prime Minister Tony Abbott to commit to the national renewable energy target.
She said south-west Victoria needed a robust renewable energy sector in order to retain school-leavers in the region and attract university graduates seeking work.
Her comments come after new figures revealed the south-west had the highest youth unemployment rate out of Victoria’s 17 regional areas.
The jobless rate for 15 to 24-year-olds in the south-west stands at 18 per cent, an increase of nearly 4 per cent on the same surveyed period last year.
“The state government is failing to invest in renewable energy and the youth unemployment rate is a clear sign that this is hurting the region,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
“Young people are missing out on jobs in turbine manufacturing but also in an indirect way. I spoke to a farmer in Portland at the renewable energy forum over the weekend and he said if he had turbines on his farm, he would be able to employ a farm hand and spend more on equipment locally.”
A state government spokeswoman said the renewable energy sector was primarily staffed by industry-trained professionals with entry-level work in the sector almost non-existent.
“Lily D’Ambrosio is drawing a long bow and Labor is clearly more interested in pandering to inner city greenies than looking after the needs of regional and rural Victorians,” the spokeswoman said.
Brotherhood of St Lawrence executive director Tony Nicholson said youth unemployment in regional areas should be critically examined by all parties ahead of the November state election.
“We know that the damaging impact (of unemployment) on these young people, including a lack of sense of self-worth, is likely to continue for years to come,” Mr Nicholson said.