Australia’s employment services system should harness people’s strengths
Jobactive, the federal employment services system, has failed job seekers. In 2019, the Senate Education and Employment References Committee report on Jobactive found that “[Jobactive] is not delivering on its stated objectives. Participants are gaining employment in spite of Jobactive, not because of it. And many participants are suffering because of the program’s punitive compliance arrangements.”
In July 2022, jobactive will be replaced with a new employment services model called Workforce Australia. While we wait to see how the new system supports marginalised jobseekers, we reiterate our belief that any new system must invest time and resources in people experiencing entrenched disadvantage.
Through our employment programs, we have observed the power of supporting individuals to harness their strengths, upskill and access the training they need to attain meaningful employment. We advocate for a system which works relationally with people experiencing disadvantage, taking the time to understand their capabilities, hopes and aspirations. Post-placement support and mentoring for job seekers and support for prospective employers must also be a focus of any new system.
Learners who access pre-accredited training are more likely to complete their qualifications
Pre-accredited training supports adults to develop the skills they need for study and work, with a focus on people who have not attained year 12 or equivalent, or have been out of the workforce for a long time. The training involves short courses designed to be flexible and support learners’ needs, improve literacy and numeracy, and find qualification pathways. Through pre-accredited training provided by programs such as Jesuit Social Services’ Jesuit Community College, participants can gain the essential vocational and personal skills they need to make a successful transition to formal accredited training and employment.
According to the Victorian Department of Education and Training, of the 19 per cent of pre-accredited learners who transition into accredited training, 64 per cent directly attain a qualification and a further 14 per cent attain a qualification indirectly. That means a total 78 per cent of learners who completed pre-accreditation are achieving their qualification, compared to the average Victorian VET student completion rate of 47.3 per cent.
Jesuit Social Services calls on the incoming Federal Government to further invest in pre-accredited training programs as a key foundational learning pathway.
Government must replace the CDP with a community-driven, collaborative model
The Community Development Program (CDP) is a Federal Government scheme which aims to increase employment in remote areas. The CDP has failed to deliver meaningful training or employment outcomes for participants – the majority of whom are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people – while also setting onerous requirements and significant penalties for compliance failures.
Under the CDP, people have been expected to do compulsory work at an hourly rate below the minimum wage, within a centralised system that has led to a decline in local decision-making and discretion in its implementation. While some reforms were implemented in March 2019, this scheme is overdue for replacement. Any replacement needs to recognise many remote communities have a thin employment market, and therefore, place-based employment incubation needs to be a feature.
To give a program the best chances of success it should be designed with, and implemented by, the communities it aims to support. Jesuit Social Services calls for a remote area scheme in line with that proposed by Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT (APO NT) – a model that is community-driven and fosters long-term collaboration across governments, employers, Indigenous organisations and communities.
The new scheme should focus on job creation to increase employment and reduce poverty. APO NT’s proposal envisages a shift in resources away from the administration of compliance obligations and into participation and community development in remote areas, including work on meaningful services and projects identified by, and with value for, remote communities. APO NT’s proposal involves “establishing new jobs in Indigenous organisations addressing community needs, [enabling] young people to move straight from school into work, and provid[ing] long term support for local people to move into higher skilled jobs that currently go to people from elsewhere.”
Government should implement a federal social procurement policy
Procurement is the process of buying goods and services. Social procurement aims to create social value beyond the value of the goods and services being purchased.
There is great potential for Federal Government procurement spending to create sustainable job opportunities for people experiencing disadvantage. The incoming Government should implement a social procurement policy which targets a proportion of procurement spending on achieving positive social outcomes such as driving recruitment of people who are long-term unemployed, have low skill levels, or live in areas of high social disadvantage.
While Commonwealth Procurement Rules include reference to considerations such as environmental sustainability, decision-makers should also be required to consider social value and impact as part of procurement processes. The Victorian Government’s Social Procurement Framework is a promising example that could be drawn upon.
Fairer education, training and employment pathways will support Australians experiencing disadvantage to access the education and training they need to find employment.
Jesuit Social Services’ education, training and employment pathways recommendations:
- Replace the compliance-focused Jobactive system, including inflexible mutual obligation requirements, with a new model that prioritises funding for intensive, flexible and individualised training and support for people seeking work.
- Invest in pre-accredited training programs to support people to enter or re-enter education and training as a pathway to employment.
- Replace the Community Development Program with a model in line with that proposed by Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory.
- Implement a federal social procurement policy that includes clear and ambitious targets for creating meaningful employment opportunities for people experiencing disadvantage.