Employment program makes life cycle easier for young unemployed

Posted on 12 Dec 2023

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

Lime main pic

A partnership between social enterprise Good Cycles and electric bike company Lime is helping struggling young people find their place in the world of work.

After weathering the rollercoaster ride of covid lockdowns, Kurt Brandso emerged to face post-pandemic life struggling with mental health challenges and anxiety related to job stability.

"Finding employment that offers stability is crucial for my mental well-being, especially considering my responsibility as a caregiver to my daughter,” said Kurt.

Through a partnership between social enterprise Good Cycles and electric bike and scooter company Lime, Kurt and scores of other young people struggling to find a job have been able to find their place in the world of work.

Good Cycles Youth Employment Program (YEP) helps to secure jobs for young people aged 18–29 and backs them with coaching and support.

The team adopts a "learn by doing" approach in an inclusive workplace environment designed to equip program participants with technical and transferable skills, which increase job-readiness and reduce barriers to employment.

These typically range from lack of work experience, insecure housing and low literacy levels to limited access to transport, disability, and mental or physical health issues.

In 2022 Good Cycles helped secure more than 23,000 hours of work for young people for whom getting a job was harder than normal.

Kurt Brandso
Lime operations specialist Kurt Brandso.
"Lime is very understanding and flexible. They understand, quite simply, that life happens, and people need to attend to other things outside of work, so the flexibility has been great for juggling both work and life."
Kurt Brandso.

Putting the pedal to the metal for disadvantaged job seekers

Lime has become an enthusiastic advocate for the scheme, providing stable and fulfilling employment for a number of eligible young people in Melbourne and additonally hiring and supporting over 44 people across their wider operation.

In Kurt's case, Good Cycles helped him find a job as an operations specialist with Lime that allows him the flexibility he needs as a caregiver for his young daughter.

While apprehensive about re-entering the workforce having suffered from anxiety and depression, Kurt said Lime offered more than a job, but a stable and nurturing space that allowed him to balance his responsibilities at work and home.

"Fortunately, Lime provides the stability I need without being mentally taxing, which is precisely what I needed during the vulnerable post-lockdown period," he said.

"Many warehousing jobs can inadvertently subject their staff to stress and pressure, but I’ve discovered that Lime has created a supportive environment that not only alleviates the strain but also increases productivity."

Kurt said balancing work responsibilities with the needs of his daughter required a level of adaptability that traditional work schedules may not accommodate.

"Flexibility allows me to be present for all the best parts about being a dad,” he said.

"Lime is very understanding and flexible. They understand, quite simply, that life happens, and people need to attend to other things outside of work, so the flexibility has been great for juggling both work and life."

Lime operations manager Lara Nickless said the company's relationship with Good Cycles began in 2020 when Lime first started its dockless bike-share program in Melbourne.

Lara Nickless from Lime
Lime operations manager Lara Nickless.

Since then the program has flourished, with Lime currently employing people in roles ranging from leadership, mechanics and operations to administration.

"Lime's partnership helps Good Cycles deliver jobs of the future where we can create meaningful work through social and environmental innovation," said Ms Nickless.

"The specialised support and coaching to remove barriers for employment that Good Cycles provides is life changing and their work creates meaningful and lasting opportunities for people and communities."

Lime lead operations specialist Yifan Cai said the Good Cycles program had made an enormous difference to her life.

Motivated by a longing for acceptance and equality as a member of the LGBTIQ+ community, Yifan left Wuhan, China, with her partner, Carol, more than nine years ago to study in Australia.

For much of that time, however, complications related to Yifan's visa prevented her from working.

"Fortunately, Good Cycles provided me with an opportunity to gain valuable experience and a stable income," said Yifan.

"My current visa allows me to work at Lime, offering flexibility that aligns with my skills and responsibilities."

Yifan Cai
Lime lead operations specialist Yifan Cai.

Yifan said joining Lime meant she had found a sanctuary where she and her partner Carol, who works alongside her at Lime, felt safe, accepted and valued.

"We have found a welcoming and inclusive community, and the Lime team, in particular, has embraced us with open arms," she said.

"I am so grateful for the acceptance we have received here and grateful that we are able to work together, too.

"The journey with Lime has been wonderful and I’m pleased to share that I’ve recently been promoted to the position of team leader."

It's this ability to help participants realise their potential and prepare them for the future beyond the short-term goal of getting a job, by building confidence, stability and networks through long term employment, that Good Cycles believes is a key strength of the program.

"By partnering with Good Cycles, we have had the absolute pleasure of supporting the employment and careers of more over 100 people since the partnership began,” said Ms Nickless.

She said initiatives involving social enterprises such as Good Cycles were vital in helping to break down barriers for young people struggling to get a meaningful job.

"Lime's internal training systems and roles, partnered with Good Cycles' specialised coaching and support, creates employment opportunities that break down those barriers." 

Lime scooters outside

Social impact comes with a cost

A new study by Swinburne University’s Centre for Social Impact Research, however, has revealed that helping disadvantaged Australians into meaningful long-term work can come at a cost for social enterprises who have this as their core purpose.

The report, Understanding the Impact Costs of Work Integration Social Enterprises, found that while they were more successful at helping people to overcome complex barriers to employment, work integration social enterprises (WISE) incur running costs higher than those of standard businesses.

These include expenses related to supporting employees as they transition into fulltime jobs, higher property costs as a result of the extra space needed for training, and external training costs.

The study, commissioned by Social Enterprise Australia and funded by the Westpac Foundation, found WISE organisations that offer a transitional employment model tend to report higher employment costs because of the high turnover of workers inherent in that approach.

Social Enterprise Australia’s Business for Good report estimated Australia’s 12,000 social enterprises generate more than 206,000 jobs.

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