The widening gap between UK school-leavers and Australia
Tom Griffiths, founder of Gapyear.com, argues that those students who miss out on a University place are also missing out on a gap year in Australia due to an industry system that fails them.
As a result of the tuition fee rise tens of thousands of students who would ordinarily take a gap year have decided not to, and so have entered an already crowded admissions system. As a result, similar to squeezing a balloon, tens of thousands of other students will now not get University places and so be forced to take a gap year.
Last year around 200,000 young people applied for University and didn’t get in. This year the combination of (a) less courses as a result of University budget cuts (b) places already taken by those with the right grades who didn’t get in last year and so got in early this year and (c) the gap year anomaly, some experts are predicting over 220,000 not getting into University. I’ve even heard wild reports of up to 250,000. But we’ll see what the final number ends up. Whatever it is, it will be a large number.
And with nearly one million young people unemployed in the UK and unemployment high in regional areas, the big question is ‘What are these 200,000 young people going to do?’ Technically until they get a job or ‘sign on’ as unemployed they are on a gap year, so the gap year numbers certainly will grow this year. How many will travel during their year and make it to Australia? Who knows. My view that the Australian backpacker industry isn’t marketing their jobs hard enough to this UK group is well known.
If you’re an 18 year old NEET (‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’) in the UK the lure of well paid jobs in Australia is strong. Sadly as this is managed by a Tourist ‘Working Holiday Visa’ and not a ‘J1′ Visa similarly to the US, most of these people are put off by the expensive indirect route to jobs offered to them through travel companies, as opposed to a clean direct route through recruitment companies.
Next year everyone will be in the same boat in the UK, so the University deferral rate will return to the usual figures. University places and jobs for young people, however, are unlikely to return, so we’ve entered a period of a downward spiral as gradually more and more don’t get into University as the bottle-neck of demand out-stripping supply continues to grow.
So the customers for the Australian backpacker market in the UK exist, and they exist in numbers. The Australian market’s ability to unlock that value whilst tied to the WHV remains doubtful.
A model based on the J1 visa used in the US controlled by each Australian state whereby they issue work visas based on the jobs available, seems to be a sensible and logical way forward for a country with a shortage of labour to connect with a country with mass unemployment. Organisations like BUNAC and CCUSA already have the infrastructure and expertise for this in the UK, operating the J1 visas for the American market. The J1 job allocations for the US are usually full within months of opening the applications. It certainly looks like it’s time for Australia to follow suit.
Jumbos full of willing UK job-seekers should be taking off from Heathrow in 2012, flying direct into the regions where they’re needed. More UK workers in the region will mean more backpacker wealth and more economic disperal of the backpacker dollars into the travel sector.
We know there is an appetite for this at both ends. What is missing is industry pressure, Australian Government support and political will.