Y4Y – Nous Group – Whitelion

  • 2020

  • Social Impact

Commissioned By:


Stephanie McCloskey

Designed In:


Youth unemployment looms as a major concern as Australia grapples with COVID-19. Valuable insights may come from a project Nous developed with Whitelion: Y4Y Youthforce, an employment program that gives participants skills, confidence, experience and employability. Y4Y cultivates a supportive group, combining training with real-world opportunities in the gig economy.

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  • Youth unemployment is a stubborn problem. The COVID-19 pandemic is adding to the more than 650,000 young Australians that are unemployed or underemployed. Not having a job while young hampers future opportunities and entrenches disadvantage. Traditional models for job programs were not having meaningful, sustained impacts for young people. Meanwhile, the world of work is changing. New technologies are driving fundamental shifts in the labour market and forcing us to re-evaluate what work is. Y4Y was designed to consider how opportunities available through the gig economy can be used in employment programs to improve the prospects of disadvantaged young people.

  • We developed Y4Y over nine pilots with 80 young people. We tested ideas and iterated the design to improve the program. It involved a participatory design with young people, design critiques from Y4Y staff and daily feedback. This led to a five-week program. Each week combined two days of training with two days in which participants use their enterprise skills under supervision. Y4Y helped teams take on paid helper tasks found online, such as lawnmowing. The participants were given an office, laptop computers, a uniform allowance, tools of the trade (a ute, a lawnmower and a trolley), and supporting staff.

  • Y4Y benefited many young people who participated. More than two in three graduating participants (68%) are in work or study after the program. Participants with relatively low risk factors were more likely to go into employment or study, but nearly one in three (29%) participants in the two highest-risk cohorts were in work or study after the program. Participants overwhelmingly reviewed the program positively, with more than eight in 10 reporting moderate progress or full achievement of goals in relation to knowledge, skill development, changing behaviours, getting work ready and confidence to make decisions.

  • There are several notable features to Y4Y: • Financial incentives motivated participants during recruitment. Each participant was entitled to a $20 daily learning allowance and $100 in uniform costs. For many, this was vital to accessing the program. • Three staff supported the program and acted as referees for young people when later applying for work. • The design took an agile approach. This involved a hypothesis-led design, participant involvement, design critiques and daily feedback. Through this process, several changes were made across pilots, including a shorter length, elevating the role of the gig economy and adapting recruitment strategies. • For most participants, the gig economy is a steppingstone. The gig economy presents risks that need to be managed through program design and staff discretion. • Feedback was positive, with comments including: “It … has given me practical experience and confidence to apply for jobs”; “It increases your confidence every week”; “They care”. • Y4Y staff cultivated a network of alumni across pilots who meet regularly and provide support and guidance for job and study opportunities. • The Y4Y model is scalable and transferable. Already, the core concepts are being used by Whitelion to implement a program for 18-to-24-year-old women exiting prisons to get jobs in IT.