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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 9905

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (10:51): I thank the shadow minister and member for Kingston for bringing this important matter before us. I think the challenge after they finish school is to try to help young people into employment. There are limited opportunities in many areas. The area that I represent is one of those. It is a very multicultural area, as everyone knows, but it is also an area of significant disadvantage. Regrettably, my area has about a 15 per cent unemployment rate for those between the ages of 15 and 24. These are things that become very important to us on the ground looking at the interest of young people. Therefore, looking at work beyond school becomes critical—and, by the way, is a partnership. It should involve all of us from school, from government agencies and from local business. Everyone has a vested interest in trying to find opportunities for our young people, so this is something we should be doing and working together on.

For this government to turn around and cut almost $2 billion from skills and training and have further cuts projected for the university sector through deregulation—I do not know what has happened in the other states, but in New South Wales I get to see on a pretty regular basis the impact of the cuts the New South Wales Liberal government is making to TAFE—it is little wonder why it is a challenge to get young people into employment. I do not think you need to be a Rhodes scholar to work it out. For young people to find employment opportunities, you must invest in education, and yet what I see is this government doing the exact opposite. The current economic climate would dictate that, with rising unemployment, we invest more, not less in education.

I would like to talk about one organisation in my electorate in south-west Sydney called South West Connect. It specialises in assisting young people transitioning from school into employment. South West Connect, which operates in the Liverpool and Fairfield areas, has positively impacted on the lives of about 7½ thousand young people through 48 partnerships with local business and community groups. The Try a Trade program—or, as it is now called, Seek a Skill—has allowed hundreds of young people of school age to come in and test their skills, basically road testing a possible occupation for their future. This is something that should be encouraged not just in my electorate but across all electorates, particularly in areas experiencing high youth unemployment. The success of these programs is phenomenal.

The two main functions of South West Connect are Partnership Brokers and Youth Connections. Something I would like to talk about in relation to those programs is the Miller Auto Shed, where 180 students, over a period of time, were able to work side by side with various tradesmen. They built up a racing car—or a drag car, at least—and raced it at Eastern Creek. This is something that in my electorate is very important, and I suppose many electorates find this with young males. They wanted to get involved in developing fast cars, as I used to do in my youth. But they actually got hands-on experience in building up a racing car, which I understand—not that I have seen it race—is quite competitive. Of that group who went through, 15 went on to get direct apprenticeships in the industry, whilst another 50 of the students are now working successfully in full-time occupations. So, this changed the position for those children who were at risk. But the important part about it is that they did not leave school at age 15. To get involved in this project and to stay involved in this project they had to commit to stay to year 12, and they did. That is something that changes lives.

Another project I would like to talk a little bit about is the alternative education model partnership. Again, it is facilitated through Job Services Australia and through various providers and local community organisations to help young people engage throughout their secondary education and basically help kids stay at school. These things are changing lives. They do not warrant a $2 million slash and burn by this government if this government is to be serious about youth unemployment.