YOUTH unemployment across Greater Bendigo has climbed to a new high and could climb further this year.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data by the Brotherhood of St Laurence reveals that youth unemployment has increased by 35 percent in Bendigo in the past two years - a rise of 13.4 per cent by February this year.
It comes at a time when St Luke's Anglicare calls on the federal government to continue a national youth program designed to keep young people engaged in education and on the road to meaningful employment.
St Luke's runs Youth Connections - a national program that prevents and addresses disengagement from education, training and employment.
It remains unclear whether federal funds would be allocated to the program beyond this year.
St Luke's client services director Grant Gibson said losing the program would be devastating for the nation and the local community.
"Education matters, whether it is school, higher education or workplace training," he said.
"And education matters to the vulnerable young people we work with."
Mr Gibson said predictions suggested that one in five young people, actively job seeking, would be unable to find work in the Bendigo region by 2016.
"It's an alarming trend that will have significant consequences for Bendigo, as more and more join the ranks of the already unemployed," he said
He said cutting the program had the potential to create a "lost generation", where young people lose hope of being able to work for a decent living.
"Youth unemployment often leads to long-term poverty and welfare reliance, and from our experience, the impact of unemployment on young lives, most likely extends well into adulthood," he said.
"This paints a grim picture and our community will start to truly witness this generational crisis...because every day we are seeing how the spiraling youth unemployment comes at a cost to community."
Youth Connections is the only education and training program of its kind that is funded across every local government area in Australia.
Mr Gibson said Youth Connections may be the only youth 'outreach' support available.
Federal Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters was unavailable for comment last night.
To access help, go to the Youth Connections website at www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/centrelink