The show, Young and Free, focused on how young people can navigate entering the job market in the midst of a pandemic that comes 10 years after a global financial crisis.
But as questions flooded in from students and young jobseekers, many were startled by who was waiting to respond.
Actor and climate advocate Yael Stone said she doesn’t count herself “as a young person”.
“I’m 35, I have a kid, I don’t think I’m young. But I’m a huge fan of young people,” she said.
Innes Willox, chief executive of Australian Industry Group, at one point labelled himself “the grandfather” of the guests and said he has five people in his house aged 18 to 30, including three on JobKeeper wage subsidies.
He said he would have to put himself in the category of “old people”.
Social media users were quick to point out the omission on the panel given the show’s title.
A #qanda episode about the effect of covid-19 on young ppl’s lives — with no one on the panel under 20 yrs old. A very Australian conversation
— Asher Wolf (@Asher_Wolf) May 18, 2020
Not one regional young Australian so far on #qanda tonight – even the person speaking for their home community in the NT lives in urban South Australia
— Nic Kelly (@nicwkelly) May 18, 2020
Innes here to advocate for “old people” and capitalism on a youth issues panel? #QandA
— Sian (@sew821) May 18, 2020
Reckon we need more teens & twenty- something voices on this panel #QandA. So many paths paused right now…they need a platform to communicate and articulate realities, anxieties, opportunities as they see them. People around them – of all ages – need to listen…
— Natasha Mitchell (@natashamitchell) May 18, 2020
Innes Willox is young? I don’t know his chronological age but his opinions are out of the 1980s #QandA
— Joanna Mendelssohn (@oldlillipilli) May 14, 2020
Love being told what issues are affecting my generation by an old man #QandA
— Anna (@naughtynorty91) May 18, 2020
I am no longer worried that only one out of six is under 30 because that one under 30-year-old is absolutely nailing it. #qanda
Does not fix the lack of Indigenous and POC voices. https://t.co/Gjqhpy479S
— Tim Baxter (@timinmitcham) May 18, 2020
On the program, RMIT final-year media student Natasha Brock asked how she should be expected to break into an industry with little to no employment available, while also up against an increased number of experienced professionals clambering to get a job.
She said the “stepping stone way” of getting experience and jobs in the past seems “almost obsolete now”.
Australia’s unemployment rate has increased to 6.2 per cent, according to the latest official figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics last week, while the rate of youth unemployment has jumped to 13.8 per cent.
The responses from the panellists came thick and fast but they were focused on her upskilling into other areas.
RELATED: BuzzFeed ends news production in Australia
“From what I can see, there is actually a huge opportunity as we transition from a fossil-fuels economy towards a renewables economy, and that does seem to be the way that we’re heading,” Stone said.
“It would seem that government investment in putting young workers to fuel that new economy in training and education – particularly with people with media skills – there’s all kinds of areas where people can support that transition to a new, safe, green economy.”
Grattan Institute economist Danielle Wood said there was “no easy answer”.
— QandA (@QandA) May 18, 2020
She noted the Victorian government’s construction jobs blitz announced on Monday regarding building social housing, schools and road maintenance, adding that she believes there is scope for jobs in the “social services space” post-pandemic.
“What I would say to young people that may not be as far down the path as Natasha, they’re thinking about how they might skill up – there are a number of areas where skills are incredibly in demand, so things like health services, mental health, aged care, a lot of trades,” she said.
“A lot of roles actually are getting filled by skilled migrants, they’re not going to be coming over the next year or two. I expect we’ll see a big fall in migration so we actually need to build a pipeline of people moving into those sectors.
“Certainly look around, there are jobs for people with those skill sets.”
Airtasker co-founder Tim Fung said it was important for young people to be “building up their greatest asset, which is their skill base”.
Mr Willox echoed Ms Wood’s comment that there was “no simple answer”.
“Out of this will come different jobs, a different sort of economy, a new normal,” he said.
“We’re sort of in the first phase of the worst of it at the moment. We will emerge from it, and the economy will change shape and opportunities will emerge and it’s about having skills that are transferable and portable.”
Host Hamish Macdonald remarked: “It does sound though, if I’m being honest, that a lot of you are saying that actually she might need to think about a different career to the one that she’s just done a university degree in”.
“Can I jump in?” Youth Commission Sophie Johnston said.
“I feel like we’ve missed the point, which is we’re pushing all of the onus onto young people but we’re not actually listening to what they’re saying.
“This was a problem before coronavirus. There were so many young people going through university, coming out the other side, and going into jobs that had nothing to do with what they studied. They weren’t there.
“There was such a lack of investment in education – particularly in the TAFE and VET sector. There was a marketisation of the university sector where students are rushed through and not given proper, adequate support and proper, adequate skills, and properly guided into where they need to go in their career.”
She said Natasha was right to note there was not a linear transition from school, to post-school education to a career.
“Part of that problem, I think – and part of the reason we haven’t been able to address that problem – is because the people in power, the people who are making decisions, aren’t listening to young people,” Ms Johnston, from the National Youth Commission Australia inquiry, said.
“We need people like Natasha to be on panels like this, to be putting forward visions for what we need to do. Because that’s when we’re going to have solutions, when we have young people at the forefront.”
Later in the show, Ms Wood tried to offer some hope to young Australians.
“We do know from past economic downturns that things do get better,” she said.
“I understand it’s hard now. It looks like a pretty devastating outlook. But things will improve so hang in there.
“You know, use the time to build capital. Go out, get a new skill. Talk to people, stay positive and realise that we will come out on the other side and there will be opportunities available again.”