Job Services Reform Key to Reversing Unemployment Trends
6 May 2014 at 10:55 am
Despite $2.5 billion being spent each year on the government funded employment system, a very small percentage of employers use it. This must change if long-term and youth unemployment is to be tackled effectively, writes Kevin Robbie, Executive Director, Employment at Social Ventures Australia (SVA).
Recent analysis from the Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) shows youth unemployment at crisis levels in a number of areas across the country, with long-term youth unemployment having tripled since Global Financial Crisis six years ago. With these figures pointing to the risk of a ‘jobless generation’, it’s clear that something needs to change if we are to stem this rise in joblessness and create sustainable job opportunities for those at risk of permanent exclusion.
One of the major challenges in the current state of play is that there’s a significant mismatch between the skills jobseekers are training in and those that are needed by employers. This needs to change, and we think we know a way to help.
While by no means a silver bullet, one approach is to tackle low employer engagement with jobseekers in the government funded employment system where, despite approximately $2.5 billion a year being spent on trying to train and place those within the system, only 7 per cent of businesses actually utilise this pool of potential talent.
This is a dismal figure that shows both waste and incredible potential.
The potential is in finding a better way to create a match between employers, training providers and employment support services. This involves getting employers involved at the outset, matching job seekers with the demand for employment, and co-designing training opportunities.
We’ve already started to get the ball rolling – forming a consortium of non-profits and employers (including BSL, Mission Australia and supported by The Business Council of Australia), who are looking at how to scale a ‘demand-led’ approach to employment services. We’ve called the project the Industry Employment Initiative and we are planning to launch a pilot of the model later this year.
While the initial pilot will be focused on tackling youth unemployment, we think the approach could be mainstreamed across the employment system to ensure ‘training for training’s sake’ does not continue and job seekers have the best chance of being supported into sustainable employment.
The approach is based on successful programs run by employers like ANZ and NAB, through which up to 85 per cent of participants have found ongoing work in their chosen fields. High retention rates, employee loyalty and increased diversity mean it’s a win-win for the companies that make the investment, as well as those that find a path to ongoing employment through this targeted approach.
This model would go a long way to addressing some of the major shortcomings of the current system by bringing all parties together and working together to provide solutions for job-seekers. It also holds potential for dealing with industries in transition, bringing relevant parties together to ensure that retraining is linked to a specific job.
Earlier this year we hosted an Employment Dialogue Dinner to connect business, philanthropy and employment service providers with Government and highlight ways to tackle this challenge. It was acknowledged that all parties need to work together to develop fresh approaches to finding jobs for those that are falling through the gaps, and there was great enthusiasm for scaling the approach being developed through the Industry Employment Initiative.
It’s time now to extend these discussions with partners across the country, to generate a critical mass around proven approaches that get people and keep people in jobs they can be proud of.
About the author: Kevin Robbie is Executive Director, Employment at Social Ventures Australia (SVA). Robbie has worked in innovative social change for over 20 years, primarily in the UK. He has held senior management roles in a range of organisations, including seven years as Chief Executive of Forth Sector, one of Scotland’s leading social enterprises. He has also been a special adviser to the UK Government Cabinet Office, worked on a wide range of development partnerships and projects and served on a number of Not for Profit and Government Advisory boards.