Youth unemployment and underemployment costs Australia more than $11 billion per year, while ironically skills shortages are an increasingly urgent problem for Australia's largest youth employer, the construction industry.

Minister for Education and Training, Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham, announced last week that Multiplex has been awarded a highly prestigious Australian Research Council Grant of $251,000 by the Australian Research Council to study how a unique collaborative approach to social procurement being implemented on the Westmead Hospital Redevelopment can help solve Australia's youth unemployment problem. Combined with university and industry cash and in-kind contributions, the grant amounts to over $800,000.

As one of only ten grants to be awarded across the country, the grant is designed to help universities, businesses and community organisations collaborate to develop innovative approaches to 'real world' industry and community challenges in practical settings.

Using Multiplex Connectivity Centres as an internationally recognised exemplar of collaborative social procurement in action, the research brings together a team of internationally recognised researchers from UNSW, Swinburne University, Southern Cross University and La Trobe University, with a uniquely qualified team of leading partner organisations from the construction industry, not-for-profit sector and government sector (Multiplex, Heyday Group, yourtown and the Blacktown City Council).

The research will address a critical gap in knowledge, internationally and nationally, around the potential role of collaborative social procurement in reducing youth unemployment - generating new theoretical and practical insights which could be used to leverage Australia's unprecedented infrastructure and construction pipeline to help address Australia's youth unemployment problem.

The Westmead Connectivity Centre co-ordinates job opportunities and acts as a hub for collaboration between a broad range of western Sydney service providers.

Multiplex Regional Managing Director David Ghannoum said the Connectivity Centre is a a whole-of community response to the specific needs of western Sydney.

"We know unemployment is a major issue for local people, and access to quality candidates can also be a challenge for job providers. The Connectivity Centre is a free service that aims to bridge that gap"

"This is a place where local employers, government agencies, training firms and community groups can come together to create some real, long-term solutions for people disadvantaged through unemployment in this community."

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