Key points:

  • Compulsory services are not being provided to early school leavers
  • Literacy and numeracy issues still prevalent
  • Disengagement in the process is rampant
  • Appropriate skills not being taught
  • Without support of JSAs, we are unable to help

After speaking with many young people looking for work, working in tandem with many Job Services Australia (JSA) agents and Centrelink officers over the past few years, it is clear that compulsory services that are meant to be provided to Early School Leavers are not being provided. This failure has had and will continue to have a significant long term impact on the individual, society and the economy.

Under current requirements, any young person who has not completed Year 12 is termed an ‘Early School Leaver’ (ESL). As an ESL, it is accepted that they have not graduated from Year 12 and therefore have little likelihood of obtaining employment once they sign up for Centrelink benefits. In addition, they may have literacy/numeracy issues, been disengaged from learning for some time and have other barriers to learning and employment opportunities.

According to their contracts with Centrelink, JSA’s are supposed to refer all ESLs into accredited training courses of the ESL’s choice in addition to a Registered Training Organisation of their choice. This makes sense, given it would be ideal for the individual to undertake a commitment in an area they actually have an interest in. This will enable the ESL to build up their skills set and improve the content of their resume, as it increases their chances of obtaining employment upon the completion of their training course. It’s a simple concept really.

The ESL is usually required to be enrolled in at least a Cert II course to qualify for their Youth Allowance or Newstart payments. This makes perfect sense for several reasons:

  • The ESL is gaining accredited training of their choice in order to gain employment in that area or gain further qualification in that line of study.
  • The ESL is enhancing the content of their resumes, which increases their chances of gaining employment, as employers are increasingly looking for qualifications in their particular industry.
  • The ESL has identified a career path they wish to pursue, making it easier and more cost effective, in the long term, for the potential employer to offer employment. If an employer can be confident that the job seeker has an interest in that particular industry (eg: an employer will wonder what a job seeker with only a Bakery course is doing applying for a role in construction).,that jobseeker is highly unlikely to be employed by that employer…makes sense doesn’t it?
  • The ESL is engaged in an activity of their choice; this keeps them interested and engaged rather than putting a square peg in a round hole.
  • The ESL is not roaming the streets idly, which increases the chances of offending, engaging in antisocial behaviour, starting substance abuse, earlier parenthood etc.
  • The ESL has a purpose to get out of bed each day, which helps with self-esteem, direction and believing they are contributing to their families and communities.
  • The ESL is becoming accustomed to being somewhere by a certain time each day, this builds work readiness.
  • The ESL will undoubtedly become an unsuspecting role model to other disengaged or disenfranchised youth around him/her, the positive flow-on effects are obvious.

But instead of all of these great things happening, we currently have a system that has ill-advised or mismanaged these ESL’s down a path of failure and further disengagement and disadvantage.

It is evident, most ESL’s are being categorised very wrongly as ‘Jobseekers’ instead of ‘ESL’s’. This sounds quite innocuous, but in fact it has most likely damaged a whole generation of people, regardless of ethnic background. It can only be described as completely irresponsible on a national level and most likely driven more for commercial gain by the JSA’s than focussing on the needs of the ESL. Even more alarmingly, it could simply be that the case managers do not have the competency to assess those many thousands of young people who have been classified under the wrong category.

  • Under the Centrelink guidelines, a Jobseeker has the requirement to apply for 10 jobs each fortnight to qualify for their Youth Allowance or Newstart. If the jobseeker has no previous work experience or qualifications on their resume, this is a wasted effort and just means hundreds of thousands of employers are receiving ridiculous amounts of unsolicited phone calls and emails, which puts a drain on their business resources and productivity.
  • The jobseeker is receiving a constant stream of rejections, which does nothing for one’s self esteem.
  • The cumulative effect on the economy this form of mismanagement has had over the past 12 years (since jobs services were privatised) can only be considered insurmountable.
  • The JSA’s benefit financially by keeping the ‘Jobseeker’ on their books and charging the Government for each contact they have with the job-seeker, while the jobseeker remains in disadvantage and despair and not to mention living in poverty on Centrelink benefits.
  • The benefits to the national economy if all past, present and future ESL’s were in accredited training, with the expectation of gaining employment or continuing with further studies upon completion, would be massive. Several hundred thousand individuals off the welfare cycle, making an income and paying taxes back into the coffers.

As final testament to how bad this problem is, it is well-known that not many of our Indigenous kids have completed Year 12 over the past five years. The Noongar population alone is approximately 40,000 and of those, around 50% are under the age of 18. Based on those numbers, if we took a conservative approach and said 10,000 of those people are ESL’s, you have to wonder why Ochre Training has NEVER received a referral from a JSA to enrol any of their Indigenous or other ESL’s into any of our Certificate II courses.

What we have seen are hundreds of ESL’s, disengaged youth, youth at risk that have approached Ochre to undertake our Cert II courses. But, as we are not a funded RTO or on the preferred RTO list with the Department of Training, we are unable to assist these young people with their choice of course or with their choice of RTO, without the support of their JSA. As an Indigenous owned RTO with specialised literacy and numeracy programs on offer, as well as tutoring programs and mentors available, we can only wonder why. It seems clear that the JSA’s are not meeting their contractual obligations to Centrelink in this regard.