Second Reading - Social Security Legislation Amendment (Youth Jobs Path: Prepare, Trial, Hire) Bill 2016
Mr PITT (Hinkler—Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment) (17:52): I rise to speak on the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Youth Jobs Path: Prepare, Trial, Hire) Bill 2016. This legislation, announced in the budget earlier this year, will make real inroads in ensuring that young Australians get the right assistance and the encouragement they need to learn new skills, to become job ready, to get a job and to stay in a job. That is why the coalition is investing $751.7 million over four years to establish the youth jobs PaTH Program for young jobseekers aged under 25 years, to improve youth employment outcomes. The coalition is committed to making sure those who are able to work have the necessary work-life skills required to enter into and remain in the workforce. The employers I speak to say that young people need the basics before they start work. It is a common theme that I hear over and over again. They need the fundamentals. They need people who will turn up on time, who are dressed appropriately for the role and who are willing to give things a go not be glued to their smartphone for a number of hours a day. But they also need people who have a good understanding of the values and behaviours that are expected in the workplace and in the recruitment process.
The prepare part of the PaTH Program will give young jobseekers who need to boost their job readiness intensive pre-employment skills training within five months of registering with the jobactive. The first three weeks of that training will help to build practical industry skills, with a focus on concepts like working in a team, presentation and communication. A further three weeks of training will centre on advanced job-hunting skills, job applications, career development and interview skills. The employability skills training will ensure that young jobseekers can present the right attitude and the right approach to work. I have spoken with many employers—I used to be one myself. Certainly, most of the ones that I speak to are willing to take on young people and give them a go, but they need them to show up, be ready and have the right attitude to work.
Applications are open now for training organisations to apply for the Employability Skills Training Panel. Panel members will develop and deliver training aimed at ensuring all young jobseekers have the basic employability skills that Australian businesses need. They will have strong employer and industry links, and demonstrated expertise in working with young people to improve their employability. The training they deliver will be developed with industry to make young jobseekers more competitive in the labour market. Applications close on Tuesday, 29 November 2016. For those who are interested, you can find more information at www.employment.gov.au.
The next part of the program, trial, will give jobseekers a chance to gain valuable work experience in a real workplace. That is a key component: real work experience in a real workplace, with an internship of between four and 12 weeks. There will be up to 30,000 internships per year available in both profit and not-for-profit businesses for up to 25 hours per week. For jobseekers, this means $200 a fortnight on top of their income support payment. For the businesses, it means $1,000 up-front in recognition of the costs of hosting the placement and an internship outcome payment to the provider who brokered each completed placement. The data shows that of jobseekers who undertook unpaid work experience, 48.6 per cent were in employment three months later compared to 26 per cent across all activities—almost half. So from 1 April 2017, jobseekers, employers and employment service providers can work together to design work experience placements and businesses who are interested in hosting an intern can register now through the employment website.
The final part of the program, which of course is hire, provides businesses with stronger incentives and greater flexibility in hiring jobseekers under the age of 25 years. The coalition is spending $298.3 million on the Youth Bonus wage subsidy. From 1 January 2017, employers will be eligible for a Youth Bonus wage subsidy if they hire a young jobseeker under the age of 25 who is in jobactive or Transition to Work and who has been in employment services for six months or more. Employers will receive $6,500 if they hire an eligible job ready jobseeker and $10,000 if they hire other eligible jobseekers. These wage subsidies create a strong incentive for employers to consider hiring unemployed youth.
Enhancements have also been made to wage subsides, which have been further strengthened and streamlined to make them more attractive and simpler for employers to access. Existing wage subsidies such as Restart will be retained but will now be paid over a six-month period, which is the same as the Youth Bonus, rather than 12 months, and give employers more flexibility to negotiate how often instalments are paid and over what period. The Youth Bonus will increase the young jobseeker's competitiveness in the labour market, allowing them to get their foot in the door of an employer.
The bill I am speaking on today will amend the social security law, to protect young jobseekers whose employers are eligible to receive a Youth Bonus wage subsidy in relation to them. It will allow these young people to have their income support payments suspended for a period rather than cancelled. This is an important change. These young people will be able to have their social security payments restored without having to make a new claim if they lose their job through no fault of their own with an eligible employer within 26 weeks of ceasing to receive income support because of that employment.
Youth Jobs PaTH, prepare, trial, hire program is part of the wider youth employment strategy which the coalition government has invested $840 million in. The coalition government has taken a multipronged approach to tackling youth unemployment, which is a serious issue, with programs such as Transition to Work and Engaging Early School Leavers. Transition to Work provides young jobseekers with intensive one-on-one support from community based organisations experienced in working with young people who face greater barriers to enter the workforce. The government has committed $322 million over four years to the Transition to Work service to help young people aged between 15 and 21 become work ready or find their way back to education.
Engaging Early School Leavers is an initiative which strengthens requirements for young job seekers aged between 15 and 21 who have not completed year 12 to continue their education or look for work to receive the youth allowance. Evidence shows that the longer a young person remains unemployed after leaving school the more likely it is that they risk becoming long-term unemployed. That is a very, very important fact. But early intervention can mean the difference between a young person taking their first steps into a productive and happy working life or entering a life of welfare dependency. We all know the effects of long-term unemployment on individuals, on families and on communities. It can be extremely damaging. Being unemployed for an extended period can erode people's skills and erode their confidence, sense of purpose and pride, which can lead to a cycle that makes it even harder to find work.
In my electorate we have a historically high unemployment rate. It is due to a complex mix of economic and social reasons. This is of course impossible to address overnight or in one fell swoop. Reducing unemployment takes time but we are making real progress. Two out of the 18 trial sites for Work for the Dole were located in the Hinkler electorate. An independent evaluation released in November last year showed that the program was effective in helping participants gain the confidence that they need and learn skills. An independent evaluation by the Social Research Centre and the Australian National University found that, of the participants surveyed, 83 per cent agreed that Work for the Dole is an opportunity to give back to the community, 79 per cent agreed that the routine was good for them, 81 per cent said that they were treated like a valuable member of staff, 81 per cent said that they were satisfied with the amount of responsibility that they were given, 76 per cent said that they were satisfied with the amount of work, 74 per cent said that they were satisfied with the variety of tasks and 68 per cent agreed that their placement was a valuable experience.
Work for the Dole programs create opportunities by giving people soft skills—routines, structure and presentation skills—and, most importantly, they provide access to potential employers. Unfortunately, in many cases those skills are not taught to the children of intergenerational welfare parents. Punctuality, teamwork and commitment are things that a person typically learns at a young age. This government is committed to ensuring that those young jobseekers are on a positive pathway into the workforce, not a life of dependency. The people of this great nation should be able to depend on their elected representatives for assistance when they need it, but that does not mean that we should be building a nation of dependants.
The coalition government's youth employment package also includes measures to encourage young Australians to start a business and create their own job. The New Enterprise Incentive Scheme will be expanded by the coalition government. Over the next four years we are investing $77.6 million to provide an additional 2,300 places for NEIS each year, bringing the total number of places to 8,600. Eligibility for NEIS will enable those jobseekers not in receipt of income support, including youth and redundant workers, to access the scheme for the first time. NEIS is delivered by a network of providers who give individualised help for jobseekers to become self-employed business owners. Business mentoring support is an essential component of NEIS. Participants will receive business mentoring during the first year of operation of their business. As I am sure you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, the first year is the most dangerous time for any new business. NEIS business mentors are people with proven business acumen and experience. They will provide assistance and advice about organisational, financial and marketing initiatives to help participants to develop their business.
Also part of the youth employment package is the establishment of the two-week 'Exploring being my own boss' workshop. It will give up to 1,000 young people per year a taste of what is involved in self-employment and entrepreneurship. This will include internship opportunities of up to 12 weeks for those participants to gain firsthand experience of what it takes to run a small business. As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker Goodenough, that can be incredibly difficult, but there is certainly nothing more fulfilling than running your own show. The 'Exploring being my own boss' workshop will run over a two-week period and give young jobseekers aged between 18 and 24 a better understanding of what self-employment entails.
The coalition is on track to deliver a range of programs to support young jobseekers. Since the government's jobactive service began on 1 July 2015 it has improved the quality of services for jobseekers and employers. From 1 July 2015 till March 2016 jobactive has placed more than 64,000 young jobseekers into jobs. Through the job commitment bonus the government is already rewarding long-term unemployed young people who find and keep a job, with eligible jobseekers able to receive a payment of up to $6,500 if employed for two years. Between 1 July 2015 and 1 March 2016, 2,632 claims were lodged for that bonus. Of these, 1,867 have been granted, totalling some $4.67 million.
As well as these programs targeted at young jobseekers, the coalition is creating opportunities in my own electorate with the Wide Bay-Burnett Jobs Package. This is a $20 million commitment and it will create a community-driven government investment. It will be a genuine partnership between the coalition and the local community. The jobs package will provide business innovation grants on a competitive basis to help businesses invest in new technology, diversify operations, create new export opportunities and deliver new, sustainable jobs. It will also allow upgrading of existing local infrastructure or investing in new infrastructure to boost productivity and generate more local investment. It will deliver targeted skills and training programs to address regional skills shortages, and support workers impacted by structural change to retrain and upskill.
This job package will give local business the confidence to invest and grow. As I have said all along, it is not government that creates jobs; it is businesses that create jobs, and we need to provide the structures for them to be successful. It will attract matching funding from participating businesses, resulting in a total package of at least $40 million for the region. This is a much and desperately needed economic boost for the electorates of Hinkler and Wide Bay. These grants will assist existing local businesses to grow, and also offer incentives for metropolitan based companies to expand their businesses into the Wide Bay-Burnett region, creating new, sustainable jobs.
If you are looking for cheap housing, you need only look into regional Australia. It is far more affordable than it is in the major cities. What we need to ensure that we can drive that population shift is work, because work will draw them to the regions. I want my community of Hinkler to be one in which my children want to stay or come back to; I do not want the talents of our young people to leave for the city. To avoid that, they need good job prospects in their home town. The coalition has a plan to improve regional economies, to attract more investment and more jobs, and improve employment outcomes for jobseekers. We are delivering for the people of regional Australia, and this bill demonstrates that commitment. I commend the bill to the House.