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Tuesday, 8 November 2016
Page: 3197

Ms MARINO (ForrestChief Government Whip) (18:45): I listened to speakers opposite, and it really does disappointment me that Labor members are totally resistant to trying new processes and new opportunities for young people. Listening to those opposite, it is clear they believe that all employers take advantage of their workers in some way. Those of us who are in business or who have a lot to do with small, medium and large businesses know that we cannot function without really great employees. Our businesses are dependent on great employees.

The Social Security Legislation Amendment (Youth Jobs Path: Prepare, Trial, Hire) Bill 2016 is required to ensure that jobseekers are not disadvantaged by taking part in the Youth Jobs PaTH measures announced in the budget as part of the youth employment package. Early intervention can actually mean the difference between a young person taking their first steps—and it is first steps—into a productive working life and a young person entering a cycle of long-term welfare dependency. Australia, and young people themselves, cannot afford to see thousands of young Australians condemned to a lifetime of welfare dependency. We know that once a young person is long-term unemployed their chances of successfully finding employment actually decline drastically. In addition to the financial cost that goes with this, the social and human cost is far too great for our country to ignore—that is why we have to try different ways of doing things, like we are with this bill. We are committed to ensuring that young jobseekers find work as quickly as possible and avoid moving onto income support and into the welfare trap.

I looked at a program that is running in one of my senior schools, Bunbury senior high school, an independent public school in Western Australia. Their Shed Works program—a very good program—is a unique opportunity for students to engage in practical work outside the traditional classroom, which often does not actually suit every young person, particularly a group of young men. The shed is actually located in a light industrial area. It provides students with valuable trade and life skills, along with courses in English and maths. I went to their graduation recently, and these are the very young people for whom the traditional formal classroom is not a suitable or a preferred learning environment. But they do have talent and skills.

The Shed Works program involves families directly. The Shed Works team that works with these young people made sure that, in 2015, these young people helped out at a local primary school, the Cooinda Primary School. They were building, measuring, cutting and welding playground equipment together. They levelled sand and they positioned a series of pallets into place and secured them. They painted what was then a climbing pyramid. It was installed, and a seesaw was installed at St Josephs. They have built outdoor furniture for Koombana Bay and worked at Milligan House. I am referring to some of the great work that can be done by these young people. Several students, following their practical Shed Works experience, have found employment. Some actually go on to the South Regional TAFE to further their skills. However, should some of these students be unable to secure employment, they would be ideal for the Youth Jobs PaTH Program, as part of our youth employment package. The three-stage PaTH program would certainly assist them further into employment.

Students in the Shed Works program actually increased their employability during the young drivers education and training courses as well. They do road safety, driver training and basic mechanics. It is in a very supportive environment, which is what I hope they find through the youth program that is in this bill. They have far more confidence and actually are determined to learn, which is what we see. It is practical learning. It is hands-on and, for some students, it actually re-engages them in learning, which I think is what we will see through the youth program that is contained in the bill.

The PaTH program will, I am sure, offer a similar process to what is happening in the Shed Works program. They have even got down to the marketing side this year, and we have seen young people on Saturdays up early and going along to the local markets to sell what they are actually building. This is of course a non-school day and they front up because they are actively engaged. These are some of the skills I believe young people who have not had the opportunity to go through the Shed Works program will be able to access through our PaTH program.

We know that many young people are simply not suited to academic or university pathways, but they still have great skills—generally, very manually talented. I commend the Bunbury Senior High School for such a great initiative. It has been operating for some years very, very successfully, and I commend the very dedicated staff at Shed Works. It is literally changing young people's lives, particularly those who do not fit in to the traditional school environment. I also commend those great young people for making the most of the opportunity, for grasping it and going on to employment, further training or into apprenticeships. This is what I am hoping will come out of the PaTH program as well. These young people just want the opportunity to have a go.

When I spoke to a number of employers, I asked them what they were seeking from their potential new employees. I asked a local supermarket owner, 'What are the attributes and attitudes you would seek from a young person you were considering employing?' He said that he needed them to be polite in his environment, to display maturity, to have people skills, to be honest, to be on time and to have a learning attitude and want to work. That is what I hope that the PaTH program instils in our young people. He also said that simple things like maths, counting and basic writing skills were a problem. He said that you can tell whether they are keen very, very quickly.

One of the other employers I spoke to was in earthmoving, mining and logistics. I asked him what they would need out of their employee. He said energy and attitude, a commitment and work ethic and, again, basic maths and communication skills both oral and written to be able to deal with the compliance issues facing clients. I asked the local retail store what they would need, and they said confidence, capability and courage and, of course, writing skills and maths and to be able to do mental arithmetic and handle money—some very basic skills that are needed as a potential employer.

The Prepare-Trial-Hire Program will increase young people's employability—a bit like what I saw with the Shed Works program. It will give young people an opportunity to actually find out what it is like to be in real work experience in real time and to get the start they need in the workforce. These are generally great young people who just need an opportunity. They need an opportunity to prove to those employers that they are keen, that they will work hard, that they will learn and that they are prepared to have a go. This is a path into employment for them.

To encourage eligible young jobseekers to take up a PaTH internship, participants will be paid a $200 fortnightly incentive in addition to their social security payments. I suspect that many of these young people will really grasp this opportunity. For some it may be the opportunity they have been waiting for for a long time and, depending on their background and their circumstances, they will see this as a great opportunity. When I spoke to the young Shed Works people, I was told that all they were looking for was the opportunity. That is what Shed Works gave them, and I am hoping that, through the PaTH internship, more young people will get a similar experience and opportunity to that experienced by the young people at Shed Works.

The bill will ensure that the fortnightly incentive payments to young jobseekers undertaking these internships under the Youth Jobs Path are not deemed as income for social security and veterans' entitlements purposes. This of course means that the incentive payments will not affect those participants' other social security payments or veterans' entitlements. The bill also ensures that it is easier for young people to return to employment services and have their income support payments restored, without them having to make a new claim or serve relevant waiting periods, if their wage-subsidy-supported job is ended due to no fault of their own.

When I get back to the opportunity that young people are looking for, often in rural and regional areas, they face additional challenges. What I want to see out of this program is that more young people in rural and regional communities, especially the smaller communities, have an opportunity and a pathway. I am looking forward to this PaTH program providing the first step and a great opportunity for many more young people, both in my electorate and around Australia.