Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, told reporters yesterday that the program would help improve the job prospects of young people, particularly in areas experiencing high unemployment.
“We know that youth unemployment is too high, particularly in certain pockets of Australia, and that’s why the new PaTH Program is about helping young people to get a foot in the door of the employment market,” Birmingham said.
“In schools funding, it’s not about funding schools for the sake of it – it’s about helping to prepare young people to go on to further training, to further education and into the workforce.”
Chair of the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC), John Pollaers, said the agreement is an example of industry “taking the lead” and stepping up to train and develop staff to ensure it has the skilled workforce it needs.
“I encourage other industry and professional organisations to follow the lead of the Australian Retailers Association and consider the Government’s PaTH program to help build their workforce,” Pollaers said in a statement.
Pollaers said both employers and interns using the PaTH program should look to the vocational education and training (VET) system to further support their training.
“Building on an internship with additional nationally recognised training will help employees gain the skills and competencies they need to excel,” he said.
“For instance, the Certificate II in retail services ensures employees have skills in using communication in the workplace, responding to workplace problems, engaging customers and receiving and handling retail stock.”
However, others say the government’s deal does little to create real opportunities for young job seekers in retail, who just days ago, had their penalty rates cut.
Shop, Distributive and Allied (SDA) Employees’ Association national secretary, Gerard Dwyer, said that while no one disagrees with the objective of giving young Australians a pathway into real work, the new scheme runs the risk of being “a road to nowhere”.
“By its own admission the Government has confirmed that over 85% of participants who complete the PaTH internship do not gain full time employment through the process,” Dwyer said in a statement today.
“It appears that young job seekers are being set up to fail, and this can be devastating to their morale, mental health and long-term job prospects.”
Dwyer said the Federal Government needs to provide vulnerable young job seekers with proper training and paid opportunities.
“It is outrageous that the Turnbull Government thinks it is acceptable to pay young people $4 an hour for 3 months and then legally allow them to be discarded at the end of that process,” he said.
“Where are the industrial safeguards and proper monitoring systems to ensure taxpayers’ money is being used to create real job opportunities and not just cheap temporary labour?”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, have announced an agreement with the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) that will see 10,000 young people receive work placement experience in retail.