Understanding the needs of young people
As participants can often have low self-esteem and be disconnected from education and employment with no network to rely on for job openings, a core component of the program is to encourage the young person to develop a positive mindset, focusing on their strengths and skills such as communication, teamwork, problem solving and proactive learning.
Kellie Checkley, Head of SYC’s Sticking Together Project, says that supporting young people to become mentally strong and develop a personal work ethic are important to staying in a job and succeeding: “The Sticking Together Project significantly improves employment outcomes. It not only assists a young person to find employment but develops their motivation, wellbeing, confidence and resilience to remain employed.”
When designing the Sticking Together Project, SYC strived to capture and deeply understand the multiple and complex barriers young people face in finding employment; the experience and needs of young people was at the centre of the project’s outcomes.
“Our aim is to support young people to begin to address the external barriers that prevented them from remaining employed previously. Then, when they are in employment the coach will work to support the young person and the employer to ensure they ‘stick’ to work. We also support young people to access the right mix of social services because mental health issues and homelessness can be huge barriers to overcome,” said Kellie.
The Melbourne pilot
The program proved successful in the Melbourne context: the rate of achievement in the same job at 12- and 26-week intervals was three times better than the standard employment service, while an impressive 83 per cent of participants remained successfully employed at the program’s conclusion in 2018.
The life trajectory for many young people changed too, with a participant sharing, “The Sticking Together Project is much different from anything else I have ever experienced because it feels a lot more personal. You can tell that the Sticking Together group actually want to help you and are not just pretending to care. [My coach] has gone out of her way to help whenever I needed it and I think that without her support I wouldn’t have had some of the opportunities I have had today.”
The Melbourne pilot was documented in a five-part web series to further share learnings and has proved a valuable asset to the project’s expansion to other communities.
The success of the initial pilot led to the Foundation awarding a $125,000 Proactive Grant in 2018 to support a further 25 young people. Both Melbourne programs provided an evidence base that informed the roll-out of the Sticking Together Project to suburbs in greater Sydney via Australia’s first social impact bond addressing youth unemployment.
Optimising the program
The Sticking Together Project launched in greater Sydney in 2019 and is expected to support close to 900 young people over four years.
The videos created in Melbourne has had a positive and motivating impact on the participants in Sydney; they have been able to see how other young people progressed through the program and are now requesting that a similar video project be developed for them.
Following from the learnings in South Australia and Victoria, the original program has since been enhanced. This includes having a rolling intake where a young person can start the 60-week program at any time, employing three coaches in each region instead of one, and gathering wellbeing and employability data through a purpose-built data management system.
“NSW is definitely benefiting from the learnings of the Victorian and South Australian projects. We now track the number of interviews that a young person attends before they are successful in getting a job, as well as the number of coaching appointments they attend. By tracking attendance and other indicators, we can identify issues earlier and follow-up with the young person. We are also looking at implementing language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) testing to gauge educational ability as we have had an increase from the early school leavers cohort.”
Another new idea that SYC has implemented is employing a relationship manager to further develop networks with current and potential employers. This allows the coaches to focus on working with the young person on their wellbeing and skills development. It is agreed by coaches and young people that more mental health services are desperately needed.
The price of success
The Sticking Together Project is attracting the attention of other youth social services and the model offers the possibility to be easily transferred and implemented in other contexts, such as juvenile justice.
“A lot of people in the sector are asking why the government hasn’t picked this up and funded it more widely. Sticking Together is more expensive than other youth programs that are government funded, however these other programs are not getting the results that we are.
“66 per cent of young people participating in the Adelaide and Melbourne pilot programs are no longer receiving welfare payments, saving the government $7.3 million in future welfare costs.”
For the young people who complete the 60-week program, their life has often been transformed. Many are now wanting to start a youth committee to contribute their ideas to the Sticking Together Project to help drive change, as well as creating a set of new videos.
“In the end, it is about the young person and what they have been able to achieve and what they want to achieve. Some of our young people are very engaged and now want to give back to help others in the program.
“Our aim is for all young people to become economically and socially independent by maintaining their job and planning their futures,” added Kellie.