11 July 2016

Guest Post: Lali Wiratunga - Enterprise and entrepreneurship key to youth workforce success

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In the lead up to Akolade's 2nd Annual Youth Employment Forum, National Manager Davidson Institute and Social Sector Segment at Westpac, Lali Wiratunga, shares with us his insights on key enablers of youth workforce success and a few ways how Westpac are helping young people in Australia to unleash their potential.

Australia needs people who are enterprising and entrepreneurial whatever their chosen careers, young people ready for the world of work, including self-employment - those equipped to make an effective transition from education to work and making a contribution to Australian society and our economy.

From the earliest age, children have an ability to be enterprising and it is important for that ability to be nurtured through education and opportunities.

Interested parties operating in the youth employment and training area are numerous and diverse, including industry groups, education establishments, social sector organisations and local community groups. Success in tackling youth unemployment will come from end to end strategies that will arise from partnerships or collaborations between these groups.

For example, not for profit organisation, Aboriginal Employment Strategy (AES), matches young career seekers to the right opportunities, at organisations, like my own, Westpac. Recruitment organisations like AES have formed successful collaborations with mainstream organisations operating at a local level. (See more at http://www.aes.org.au/traineeships/)

With any partnership or program for youth, whether from business or a Social Sector organisation, co-creation of the approaches is recommended, so that the youth beneficiary has a greater level of ownership and more control to ensure that programs are adapted to their needs. The next generation of young leaders are amassing skills and a capabilities to ready them for experiencing a number of careers and organisations over their lifetime.

To create job builders and nurture tomorrow's leaders, the enablers (according to the Foundation of Young Australians) are:

  • Boosting digital literacy and infrastructure

With Australia transitioning to a knowledge and ideas economy, we are recognising the increasing importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills to the jobs of the future.

  • Enterprise skills being in the DNA of our young people

Innovation and creativity are critical for success, as they lead to young people with confidence, high aspirations and an ability to add value to society and the economy.

  • Creating a spirit of entrepreneurship in our young people

I have personally seen how this can unlock potential. In London as a school student, I was a participant on Young Enterprise, which is the UK's largest charity that empowers young people to harness their personal and business skills.

A great example of how we are helping to build digital literacy, is through our sponsorship of Camp Code, which the Westpac Group announced in May 2016. 

"Code Camp do a terrific job in engaging young people with technology at a young age, giving them extra skills to take back to the classroom and, perhaps, inspiring them for a career in technology" Westpac's Chief Information Officer, Dave Curran, said when launching this partnership.

Code Camp is a provider of school holiday programs and classes that teach Australian students how to code and build iPhone apps. Already, Code Camp has helped more than 4,300 Australian school students learn coding skills and aims to reach 25,000 students by 2018. In a typical one week Code Camp experience, students learn to develop one or more of their own iPhone games, while developing technology, problem solving and other skills in the process. 

In 2017, Westpac will mark 200 years since its foundation as the first Australian bank. The Westpac Bicentennial Foundation is celebrating this anniversary by creating a legacy for future generations. The Westpac Young Technologists Scholarship program is one of five scholarships offered by the Foundation.  Each scholarship valued at $25,000 over 5 years helps undergraduate students with a passion to bring about change through cutting-edge technology. The Westpac Young Technologists Scholarship aims to foster generations of innovators. (For more on the Westpac Bicentennial Foundation, visit www.westpac.com.au/200years)

These are just a couple of ways that we are helping young people in Australia, to unleash their potential.

Want to hear more from Lali Wiratunga? Don’t miss the 2nd Annual Future of Youth EmploymentForum where he speaks more on building workforce capability in young Australians.


Lali Wiratunga, National Manager, Davidson Institute and Social Sector Segment, Westpac has over 16 years’ international experience, in financial and professional services – having had a number of corporate roles at Westpac, worked as a management consultant with Accenture and as a corporate lawyer. Lali is passionate about delivering a great customer experience and partnership development. Lali has been involved with the social sector, as a corporate volunteer, including as a pro bono advisor to a London-based legal aid centre. More recently, Lali has acted as an advisor to a social enterprise on Social Traders’ Crunch Program in Melbourne.


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