Youth Employment Innovation Challenge

Tackling Youth Unemployment Through Innovation

Meet the Teams

The Youth Employment Innovation Challenge was launched in partnership with the NSW Department of Industry in March 2018 as part of their Smart Skilled and Hired Program. The Challenge was created to fund innovative ideas and solutions that addressed youth employment across the state of NSW. 


The challenge involved a pitch event and a 12-week incubation period, where participants underwent business-ready training with an experienced incubation partner, to develop and test their business models and ideas.


Twelve service providers have been awarded up to $750,000 each to deliver new ideas or grow existing projects that are working well in local communities.


For more information regarding the showcase event, see the short video below: 



The successful service partners are listed below: 


BackTrack Works will provide foundational welfare, education and skill development programs to support young people into jobs. The project will be delivered in the New England/North West region.


batyr will scale up its successful Being Herd workshops to create pathways to jobs for young people who have experienced mental ill health. It will be delivered in the Western Sydney, North Coast, New England/North West and Hunter/Central Coast regions.


Campbell Page’s HI AIMS program is aimed at young Aboriginal people in the Shoalhaven region. The program offers a collaborative approach to becoming job-ready by providing structured opportunities for coaching, mentoring and a safe place to connect with community.


Hactivate is an online platform that enables users to build skills in web development, game design, and animation to give them access to job opportunities in the digital economy. The platform will initially be delivered in the Northern Rivers area.


Home Care Heroes will train and recruit disengaged youth to provide companionship and non-medical services to people who are socially isolated due to age, disability, illness or injury. The project will be delivered in Western Sydney and Hunter/Central Coast.


Green Connect offers jobs, training and wrap-around support to young people in the environmental sector, running an organic farm and engaging in environmental repair. The project will be delivered in the Illawarra and Southern Highlands/Shoalhaven regions.


JobGetter works with employers, schools, career counsellors, parents, workers, coaches and job agencies to identify the individual needs of young people and to funnel them into the pathway that will get them job outcomes. The project will be delivered in all six regions.


NSW Business Chamber’s Skillsroad will support and mentor young people through the Skillsroad journey and match them with employers and jobs. The project will be delivered in all six regions.


Neighbourhood Jobs is a social enterprise which employs local young people to do neighbourhood jobs such as mowing, cleaning, green waste removal and maintenance of social housing and private premises. It will employ young people from Western Sydney who have grown up in social housing or experienced homelessness.


Poultry Hub’s ‘Two Birds One Stone’ provides hands-on training and work experience to young people, connecting them with work opportunities in the poultry sector to help address entry-level skills shortages. The project will be delivered in the New England/North West region.


Test Pilot’s Designing Futures project helps young people identify and commercialise their creative talent to pursue a career in the creative industry. The program includes immediate employment, training in digital and industrial design and developing an individual portfolio. The project will be delivered in Western Sydney.


YEP Careers’ YEP11 with My Career Passport is an 11-module idea incubator that supports young people to develop job readiness skills and an entrepreneurial mindset, based on their passion. It targets 15-24 year olds on the North Coast who are at risk of dropping out of school or being long term unemployed and young parents.


What is the Youth Employment Innovation Challenge?

The NSW Department of Industry is working with the NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation to launch the Youth Employment Innovation Challenge.


The Innovation Challenge will offer $10 million to fund innovative solutions and ideas that support young people to find employment in NSW, with a focus on regional areas.


The Innovation Challenge will help develop projects that investigate, design and implement better ways of helping young people aged 15-24 years old with multiple and complex barriers to find work.


The application process will involve a pitch event where shortlisted applicants will pitch their ideas to a panel of experts.


Selected projects will receive funding and enter an incubation process, where successful projects will undergo ‘business ready’ training with an experienced incubation partner.




The process

We received 77 applications from all over the state, 32 were shortlisted for the Pitch Event on May 3rd, and below you will find the amazing and diverse 17 teams who were successfully chosen as service partners, currently undergoing 12 weeks of Incubation. We look forward to following their progress and creating and sustaining employment for NSW youth through their innovative solutions.


We want to thank ALL of the participants who put forward their innovative ideas throughout this process, and the Judging Panel for donating their time and expertise. 


For more information regarding the challenge and our Pitch Event, please see video below


Our target group


We are looking for ideas and solutions which help young people who are:

  • 15 – 24 years old
  • In at-risk groups
  • Early school leavers or disengaged from school
  • Not in education, employment or training
  • Not receiving income support payments or under any other Commonwealth program 



Youth unemployment remains an issue

Youth unemployment remains a persistent issue, particularly as unemployed youth form a large proportion of the total unemployed population. Regional youth unemployment rates remain high across NSW, with a number of regions recording unemployment rates above the state average (highlighted in the image below).


High youth unemployment is of particular concern because it hampers economic growth and can have a negative effect on a persons future. Youth is an important time for choosing a career, gaining and developing skills, establishing an identity and obtaining independence.


At-risk groups


There are a multitude of causes for the sustained level of youth unemployment, but the impact is felt greatest by young people considered at risk or already experiencing long-term unemployment. At-risk group categories  include young people with a disability, First Australians, those with caring responsibilities, young people from low socio-economic communities and those with low educational attainment.


Other barriers to employment


Many young people also experience individual barriers to employment, such as limited access to transport or education, drug and alcohol abuse or unstable housing that may increase their risk of unemployment. 

Source: ABS cat. No. 6291.0.55.001 Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - Electronic Delivery, Oct 2017


What problem are we trying to solve?

The Innovation Challenge seeks solutions and ideas that address the following:

  1. How can we develop and promote clearer pathways, so young people can make informed decisions about their employment options?

  2. How can we better connect young people and employers, so that they are the right fit for each other?

  3. How can we bring employers on the journey to create more youth inclusive work environments?

  4. How can we assist young people who have transport barriers to access training and employment opportunities?

  5. How can we enable young people to identify their skills and for employers recognise those skills?



Challenge stages

*Dates are indicative only and subject to change. We will post any changes to this website and notify affected applicants of the changes. 


    Download PDF Document






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    Anthony Body Presentation





        Overview of Challenge



Case Studies