Telum Talks To: Karen Graham at Talent RISE

Telum Talks To: Karen Graham at Talent RISE

In today's rapidly evolving job market, young people often find themselves facing various barriers to employment. These barriers can take many forms, from a lack of experience to limited access to education and training opportunities. This week, Telum caught up with Karen Graham, CEO of Talent RISE, to discuss barriers to employment for young people and the work the business does to support emerging professionals in Australia and New Zealand to secure work opportunities.

Give us a snapshot of Talent RISE in Australia and New Zealand - what does the organisation do?
At Talent RISE our mission is to help young people facing employment barriers to find meaningful work. We support them by providing education, training, life skills and career opportunities. Since our launch, we have engaged with over 3500 young people in employment initiatives and have placed over 500 into meaningful employment.

It is said to be a “buyers’ market” at the moment, with a lot of organisations working very hard and looking far afield to attract and secure talent. But it doesn’t always feel that way for some job-seekers, who can struggle to get a look-in. What are some of the barriers to employment that young people face in today's job market?
The young people we work with confront an array of obstacles when it comes to securing employment. These challenges encompass a broad spectrum, ranging from socioeconomic hurdles, mental health issues, a lack of relevant experience, to difficulties in crafting compelling CVs, navigating job applications, and excelling in interviews.

It's disheartening to note that numerous young people, even those fortunate enough to have tertiary education or relevant training, often find themselves mired in what we refer to as the "experience trap" - the need for experience to acquire experience. And of course, a substantial impediment lies in the absence of personal connections and the privileges that many of us often take for granted as we embark on our professional journeys.

A significant number of young people have entered the workforce in the midst of a pandemic and a massive shift towards remote or hybrid work. What challenges can this present, both for job-seekers and for employers, and how should employers adapt their approach to recruitment and onboarding accordingly?
The pandemic represented a monumental obstacle for many young people. Youth were hit hard by school closures and the closing down of entry-level jobs as well as internships and apprenticeships. Research shows that once young people have lost touch with the labour market or become marginalised in informal and precarious jobs, re-connecting them with good jobs can be very hard and can have potentially long-lasting effects.

Our conversations with young people revealed that anxiety and mental health challenges were higher than ever as a result of this. Thankfully, we have seen things improve, with only 9 per cent of young people we surveyed citing the pandemic as a specific barrier to employment by the end of 2022, compared to 25 per cent the year before.

Now that remote and hybrid working are a normality, we’re seeing mixed trends. It has been fantastic for young people who are neurodivergent or young people with physical health challenges. For example, we placed a young person who has back issues, and she gets to work from home 95 per cent of the time, which has been amazing for her mental health too.

However, we also see hybrid working for young people as a disadvantage for the majority, as they miss out on learning from other team members, as well as learning key skills such as time management.

Our readers and followers consist of primarily communications professionals. How important is what and how you communicate to these young job-seekers? What approach and messaging works and what doesn’t?
One of the challenges we face is that the young people who could most benefit from our support are often incredibly disengaged from traditional communications channels. Our communications strategy is to "meet them where they are" - using channels such as social media platforms, messaging apps, and online forums that young job-seekers frequent regularly. This approach is crucial because the medium and messaging are intrinsically intertwined.

To effectively engage this audience, it's vital to strike the right balance between informative and relatable content. Authenticity is key; overly polished or formal messaging may not resonate well. We've found that sharing success stories and practical advice in a down-to-earth and empathetic tone tends to be more effective than solely focusing on statistics and figures.

Ultimately, connecting with young job-seekers requires a genuine understanding of their challenges, an empathetic approach, and a willingness to adapt our communication methods to best serve their needs.

Talent RISE partners with organisations across the region to help find job opportunities for young people - what do you look for in a partner, and how can organisations work with you?
We’re fortunate to work with some incredible partners who support us in giving life-changing opportunities to young people who truly need them. Most critical for us is finding partners who are motivated by the genuine desire to make a positive impact, rather than merely fulfilling a checkbox requirement.

Our partners have inclusive hiring practices, supportive teams and leaders who truly walk the talk when it comes to challenging the status quo for what typical entry-level hiring looks like, which, as we know, are often quite elite graduate programs.

Employers can work with us in many ways. For example, taking part in work-readiness workshops, hosting career days, providing training opportunities, offering entry-level roles and internships, or donating travel cards or technology to support young people once they start employment.

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