It’s critical to get the transition from school to stable employment ‘right’ to protect the mental health of young people. New VicHealth research suggests practical ways for schools and employers to help young people through this vulnerable time.
Download the summary report: Young people, transition into work and mental wellbeing (PDF, 331 KB)
Transitioning from education to work is a time of vulnerability for young people, especially if it involves unemployment, job insecurity, lack of preparedness or poor work conditions (all linked to deteriorating mental health).
There’s also increasing evidence of a long-term scarring effect of unemployment on mental health, which is very significant given that young people in Australia are the most likely to be without a job and form the largest group of job-seekers.
The penalty for failing to address this issue is a greater likelihood of young people falling into unemployment and becoming ‘NEET’ (not in education, employment or training).
Three studies initiated by VicHealth looked into young adults’ experience in the workforce, tertiary students juggling work and study and the transition into stable employment. Together the findings can guide policy makers, educators and employers on the best way support for young people on their journey from education to work. The studies include:
Study one: longitudinal assessment of the relationship between job stressors and mental health in young Australians.
Study two: systematic review of the evidence on the effects of transition into employment and early working experiences on the mental health of young people.
Study three: exploring young people’s lived experiences of transitioning from education to work, and the impact of this on their mental health.
Recommendations for schools
Highschool is the ideal environment for young people to learn about the world of work and how they can build skills and experience. Recommendations for schools are:
Offer proactive vocational support, such as help to select roles matching skillsets, understanding employment contracts, and basic education of employment rights and conditions.
Offer an online platform which advertises entry-level jobs, internships and work placements relevant to young people.
Recommendations for employers
All the studies showed that young workers are more likely to be exposed to poor working conditions than older workers. These poor conditions include low job control, job insecurity and an imbalance between effort and reward. Recommendations for employers are:
Promote paid internships, job placement programs or training opportunities for young people, allowing them to gain experiences required for entry level positions.
Build the communication and management skills of supervisors to help reduce the incidences of bullying that many young workers experience from their immediate superiors.
Provide a high-quality environment and psychosocial support for younger workers, which will protect and promote their wellbeing and may reduce the likelihood of later mental health problems.
Give young workers greater control over working hours (where appropriate) and offer greater understanding of special circumstances (such as needing time off for exams) so they can feel secure in continuing employment.
Download the scoping study: Entry into work and changes in life satisfaction among young workers (PDF, 407 KB)
Download the systematic review: Young workers and mental health - A systematic review of the effect of employment and transition into employment on mental health (PDF, 501 KB)
Download the qualitative study: Transition into employment for young people (PDF, 263 KB)
Find out more
For more information about VicHealth’s work on supporting young people to navigate the gap between education and purposeful work, take a look at Staying on Track
To find out more about the scope of VicHealth’s work on the mental wellbeing of young people see our Mental Wellbeing Strategy 2019-2023