Victorians in work

You are reading Chapter 3 of 'Delivering Fairness', 2019 VCOSS Budget Submission

A good job can change someone’s life. Stable incomes mean people can meet their living expenses, put a roof over their heads and plan for the future. A job can also provide purpose, new social connections and the opportunity to give back to society.

Victoria has had recent rapid jobs growth, providing a unique opportunity to break the cycle of long-term unemployment and intergenerational poverty. The community sector is supplying the fastest jobs growth, fuelled by the NDIS roll-out, family violence reforms and aged care changes.

By investing in supported training and job pathways, providing extra help for disadvantaged learners, and creating job placements with trusted employers, the Victorian Government can help people left behind by the jobs boom, and secure prosperity for people otherwise sidelined by the economy.


 Create a Youth Jobs Plan

Develop an overarching plan to help young Victorians into work, enabled by a re-funded LLEN network

Youth unemployment remains stubbornly high at 11.9 per cent,[1] above the Australian average. Young people’s jobs are becoming increasingly precarious, meaning many can barely cover living costs.

For tens of thousands of young Australians, their first ‘real’ job is likely to be a survival job – and a part-time one at that. [2]

The Victorian Government can create a Victorian Youth Jobs Plan. Co-designed with young people and their communities, this plan can bring together government, educators, jobseeker supports and employers to reduce Victoria’s high youth unemployment rate. It can leverage Local Learning and Employment Networks (LLENs) to provide brokerage and innovation to help young people successfully navigate into a career. For instance, LLENs bring together employers, schools, training providers and community services to strengthen young people’s education, training and employment outcomes. The LLENs are funded until the end of 2019. An extended funding program can re-energise the LLENs, forming a central plank of Victoria’s action on youth unemployment.

Also drawing on the innovative programs in the Jobs Victoria Employment Network, the Plan can map out better connections supporting young people to complete education and training and to transition into the workforce.


 Meet demand for community service workers

Promote community careers, plan for the regional workforce, conduct a workforce census, and increase training pathway visibility

The social assistance and health industry is already Victoria’s biggest employer, projected to grow faster than any other and generate one in four new Victorian jobs over the next five years.[3] In this time, Australia will need nearly 70,000 extra aged and disability carers alone.[4]

The 10-year Community Services Industry Plan prioritises actions to help community services compete with other skilled industries to attract and retain talent in an increasingly competitive labour market.

As demand for more quality services grows, workers increasingly need demonstrated skills and qualifications, especially for new entrants. Greater alignment between the capacity and focus of educational institutions and the industry can help provide this skilled worker pipeline.[5] Promoting and supporting community sector careers helps create an industry of choice for qualified, committed and motivated people, and secure the workforce required.

The Victorian Government can develop a regional workforce strategy to address significant workforce shortfalls in targeted areas, and fund a community services industry workforce census to better understand and address workforce shortages and skills gaps across the sector, and in particular locations.

Disparate and confusing information prevents future community service workers from finding the right training to get them job-ready and develop their expertise. The Victorian Government can commit to funding a Community Services Learning Hub for future workers to easily find quality learning opportunities.


 Complement free TAFE to help struggling learners

Deliver bursaries and skills mentors to help battling students get qualified

Victoria’s landmark free TAFE program for priority courses starts this year,[6] helping close Victoria’s skill gaps, especially in booming community service careers. But some Victorians face extra hurdles to finding a job, including mental and physical health problems, and limited educational opportunities and work experience, leading to a lack of employable skills, financial pressures and insecure housing.

Barely half of young people finish their first full-time vocational education course. [7] Students facing disadvantage do better with financial aid and personalised support while studying.[8] The Victorian Government can provide bursaries and scholarships to cover costs of childcare, textbooks, public transport and digital devices so these students can successfully complete courses.

TAFEs can also be funded to target resources and support disadvantaged learners overcome participation barriers. This includes dedicated mentoring and pathways support staff, literacy and numeracy support, study skills assistance, assessment adjustments, counselling, and employer partnership development to facilitate workplace training.[9]

Victoria can maximise completion rates by working with the Federal Government to design a world-class system, develop fit-for-purpose national training packages, integrate training programs, eliminate perverse incentives, and simplify funding arrangements.[10]  The sector is still hampered by mediocre training providers, including those with low-quality teaching, inadequate facilities, and lacking industry connections.[11] Raising quality standards and rebuilding the reputation of vocational education will create a more successful training system.


 Use government purchasing to secure jobs for struggling workers

Extend requirements on public contracts to employ disadvantaged workers in secure jobs

The Victorian Government spends about $16 billion to support service delivery and operations.[12] By putting conditions on this massive spending power, the Government can generate extra social benefits, like providing pathways to secure jobs for vulnerable workers.

Victoria’s current Social Procurement Framework is leading the nation by supporting procurement from social enterprises and Aboriginal businesses; creating opportunities for disadvantaged communities, women and people with disability; and considering workplace conditions around family violence leave, fairness and safety, environmental sustainability and climate change.[13]

But more can be done. The Victorian Government can help Victorians facing disadvantage by setting more prescriptive targets to give them jobs, and extending this requirement to smaller contracts (it is currently only mandated for contracts over $50 million). The existing regime requires companies to comply with industrial relations laws, but the Government could set a higher standard to encourage the creation of more secure jobs. For example, a minimum proportion of workers employed permanently, reducing sub-contracting, casual employment, and labour hire.


 Boost community education funding to build skills success

Increase the hourly funding rate for Foundation Skills courses

Many Victorians need more than one pathway to education and work. For example, Victoria has 650,000 adults with low literacy.[14] Many adults experiencing disadvantage have a better chance to get qualified by starting with the basics.

Adult and Community Education (ACE) provides community-based learning, meeting individual needs with flexible, tailored support. ACE helps high-needs learners develop foundational language, literacy and numeracy skills, equipping them with the knowledge and confidence for further training and finding work.[15]

ACE successfully re-engages adults with learning, builds bridges to further, formal tertiary education and paid work, and delivers accredited VET programs in their own right.[16] People transitioning from ACE complete TAFE courses at a higher rate than others.[17] This is remarkable given they often face multiple complex barriers to learning.

But Victoria’s hourly funding rate for Foundation Skills courses is just $7 per contract hour, below the national average of $9.10. This hinders providers from covering the extra costs and workload to intensively support struggling learners.[18]

The Victorian Government can fund ACE providers to reflect the extra costs of delivering training to learners who require extra support.[19]

 Remove barriers to selecting the best training option

Reform the ‘two-course’ rule limiting learners’ training options

To best address barriers to learners’ progress, the Victorian Government can reform the ‘two course’ rule that often blocks people, including high-needs learners, from selecting the best training option for them. Under this rule, students are restricted to:

  • commencing a maximum of two government-funded courses in a calendar year
  • undertaking a maximum of two government-funded courses at any one time, and
  • commencing a maximum of two government-funded courses at the same level in their lifetime.[20]

Currently this rule reduces participation and impedes seamless transitions into further training. It can also block people from re-training in a new career; for example, to enter the rapidly growing community services sector by re-training as an aged or disability worker. Reforming the two course rule would better support disadvantaged learners’ momentum in building their learning and skills development, and help meet skills shortages in Victoria’s rapidly growing economy.


 Keep successful employment assistance

Build on the successful Jobs Victoria Employment Network

Delivered by employment specialists, the Jobs Victoria Employment Network (JVEN) is the Victorian Government’s centrepiece policy to provide place-based support to Victorians facing barriers to employment.[21]

Employment experts work closely with employers to identify job opportunities and prepare jobseekers for work. This can include identifying career and training goals, updating resumes, conducting mock interviews and facilitating work experience.

The Victorian Government can provide long-term funding certainty to continue the success of JVEN and maintain support to find people jobs.

Anab’s journey to employment

Anab came to Australia seven years ago from Somalia. She arrived with no English and prioritised enrolling in English classes. Whilst studying, Anab had a series of short-term warehousing jobs. Before enrolling in the #WorkNOW program, she had been out of work for 18 months.

As a result of enrolling in the #WorkNOW program, Anab secured a one day a week job as a dry cleaner at an aged care service, whilst studying a Certificate III in Childcare. Anab really values the support that she gets from her consultant. “If I have a problem at work I know she will help me,” says Anab. “She calls me to see how I’m going.” Without the support of the program, Anab doesn’t think she would have a job.

The JVEN #WorkNOW program is delivered by Wingate Avenue Community Centre in partnership with Kensington Neighbourhood House and the Maribyrnong & Moonee Valley LLEN.


 Further strategies

 Target more government jobs to people locked out of work

The Victorian Government can build on existing targets[22] for a more diverse public sector workforce by including other cohorts such as refugees, new migrants and single parents. This includes extending the existing targets for people with disability[23] and Aboriginal people[24] from the relatively small central public service to the whole public sector.


[1] David Martine, Secretary, Department of Treasury and Finance, Economic Update, December 2018.

[2] Brotherhood of St Laurence, Part-time purgatory: Young and underemployment in Australia, December 2018.

[3] Australian Government Department of Jobs and Small Business, Employment Projections: Regional Projections – five years to May 2023.

[4] Australian Government Department of Jobs and Small Business, Employment Projections: Occupation Projections – five year to May 2023.

[5] Deloitte Access Economics, Forecasting the future Community Services in Queensland 2025, 2016.

[6] TAFE Victoria, Free TAFE for lots of jobs.

[7] Estimated completion rate is 51.6 per cent for those aged under 25 years in full-time study with no prior post-school qualification, in G Myconos, K Clarke, K te Riele, NCVER, Shedding light: private ‘for profit’ training providers and young early school leavers, 2016.

[8] Future Social Services Institute, Submission to Joint Standing Committee on National Disability Insurance Scheme – Market Readiness, 8 March 2018.

[9] Youth Action – Uniting – Mission Australia, Vocational Education and Training in NSW: Report into access and outcomes for young people experiencing disadvantage – Joint report, February 2018.

[10] Future Social Services Institute, op. cit.

[11] Future Social Services Institute, op. cit.

[12] Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Victoria’s social procurement framework: Building a fair, inclusive and sustainable Victoria through procurement, 2018.

[13] Social Traders Australia, ‘Victoria continues to lead the way with Social Procurement Framework’, 2018.

[14] Department of Education and Training, Future opportunities for adult learners in Victoria: Pathways to participation and jobs, 2018, p. 6.

[15] S Lamb, Q Maire, A Walstab, G Newman, E Doecke and M Davies, Improving participation and success in VET for disadvantaged learners, Victoria University, 2018, p. 13.

[16] K Bowman, The Value of ACE Providers, Adult Learning Australia, 2006.

[17] Department of Education and Training, op. cit., p. 19.

[18] Neighbourhood Houses Victoria, Adult Community Education State Budget Submission 2019, forthcoming

[19] Ibid.

[20] Department of Education and Training, Future opportunities for adult learners in Victoria: Pathways to Participation and Jobs discussion paper, 2018, p.29.

[21] Victorian Government, Jobs Victoria.

[22] For example, the 6 per cent by 2020 Victorian public sector disability employment target. Victorian Public Sector Commission, Getting to work: Victorian public sector disability employment action plan 2018-2025, 2018, p. 1.

[23] There is a 6 per cent Victorian disability employment target by 2020 in government departments and Victoria Police, increasing to 12 per cent by 2025. Victorian Government, Every Opportunity: Victorian economic participation plan for people with disability 2018-2020, p.16.

[24] Barring Djinang has adopted an Aboriginal employment target of 2 per cent for the Victorian Public Service. No target has been set for the broader public sector. Victorian Public Sector Commission, Barring Djinang, 2017.



Artwork by artist Jacob Komesaroff. Follow on Instagram @jkomments