Jesuit Social Services is a partner in the Victorian Government Out for Good pilot. Our Advocacy Manager VANESSA WILLIAMS spoke to our Manager of Employment Services, Rob Auger, about the opportunities the program is creating for young people from justice involved backgrounds to find sustainable employment.
Sometime in January, three young workers turned up for their first day at one of Melbourne’s major construction sites. They had their new White Cards with them – the minimum licence required to work in construction – and they took their place alongside the army of builders making Victoria’s infrastructure boom possible.
They were qualified, trained and ready to work hard. But there’s no skirting around one issue: these men had criminal records. And not only did their bosses know that – it’s one of the reasons they were on site.
These men are part of the Out for Good pilot being facilitated by JobsBank, a new organisation that helps employers recruit and retain people facing barriers to employment. The pilot involves Jesuit Social Services, the YMCA Bridge Project, Goal Indigenous Services, several construction companies, PwC, RMIT, Melbourne Polytechnic and Youth Law. It also involves the Victorian Government, through JobsVictoria, and the Department of Justice and Community Safety.
The pilot, which launched last year, is helping 50 people aged 17 to 26 who have been in prison, a youth justice centre or otherwise involved in the justice system get a sustainable job.
“These are people who have ended up in prison or youth justice because of something they did when they were younger. There might be a trauma, mental health or drug and alcohol component. But they are out, and they want to turn their lives around,” says Rob Auger, the manager of employment services at Jesuit Social Services, which helped find and prepare the three young men for the pilot.
“Young people coming out of the justice system find it incredibly difficult to get work. There is a lot of discrimination. A lot of are just being screened out before they are even given a chance.
“But they need sustainable work – something they can build a career and a new life around – to help them stay away from the reasons that led them to offend in the first place.
“These major projects give people that chance. If we can get someone skilled enough there is a real career path for several years, while big companies see the value of creating loyal workers and doing their bit to make communities stronger.”
Rob says Victoria’s infrastructure boom is providing an opportunity for people to change direction and contribute back to society.
The pathway to work is not always clear or easy. Some young people might never have been able to enter the workforce before – they are keen, but for many it can be a strange and intimidating environment. Jesuit Social Services runs a pre-employment resilience course for those who need the extra support and provides counselling and support services for six months to help them settle in.
Construction is a growing industry in Victoria, and if the Out for Good pilot works, Rob hopes there will be plenty more jobs.
“If we can get them into the right companies, there is probably eight years’ worth of regular work in construction at the moment,’’ he says.
“This is a real partnership between employers, the community sector and the Government to help these young people get their lives back on track and keep them out of the justice system for good.”