Finding a good job

Victorian 2020 State Budget Analysis

Prior to COVID-19, Victoria enjoyed low unemployment and strong employment growth. We were the jobs engine room of the nation.

The global pandemic has wreaked havoc on our economy. Between March and September, the official unemployment rate rose to 6.9 per cent.

The pain has been more pronounced for some workers and for some industries. Hospitality, tourism, creative industries, sport and recreation and international education have been the hardest hit, though no industry has been left unscathed. Women, young people, older Victorians and those without formal qualifications have borne the brunt of job losses and underemployment. Women with caring responsibilities have carried additional COVID-related burdens – for example, losing work and income because of the need to supervise school-aged children learning from home. COVID has also shone a spotlight on pre-existing concerns, such as the dearth of entry-level jobs for school leavers and the perils of insecure work.

The State Budget tackles these issues head on. It is unequivocally a jobs budget. It sets out a Jobs Plan with a job creation target of 400,000 new jobs by 2025, with half to be delivered by 2022.

Job creation is at the heart of every ‘Big Build’ – whether it’s social housing, rail infrastructure, new schools, TAFE campus upgrades or new arts facilities. The ‘Big Housing Build’ alone is expected to create 10,000 jobs every year for four years.

Major new investments in inclusive education, healthcare and social assistance, and clean energy will also create new jobs.

These measures are knitted together by investment in Jobs Victoria. The role of Jobs Victoria is to support job creation through the provision of targeted wage subsidies and the strategic use of social procurement. It will also provide employment support to improve opportunities for Victorians who experience barriers to getting a job and/or keeping a job because of their disability, mental ill-health, trauma or other vulnerabilities.

Importantly, the Jobs Plan is accompanied by strong investment in skills and training. There is a substantial focus on supporting Victorians to train, re-train and find opportunities through new and continuing investments in vocational education and training (with Free TAFE a continuing centrepiece). The Budget also invests in school-based applied learning and pathways support for young people.

Grants, tax deferrals, waivers and other forms of industry support will also aid the state’s jobs recovery. The expansion of school-based Outside Schools Hours Care and other supports targeted to unpaid carers will assist more women to get back into work.

 

Positive initiatives

Jobs for Victoria

$151.3m in 2020/21 ($619.4m/4yrs)

Jobs Victoria services will be enhanced and expanded for Victorian jobseekers and businesses.

Key investments include:

  • $250m in wage subsidies to support businesses to create jobs. The subsidies will have a significant focus on women’s economic participation: $150m of the subsidies will go to women (including $50m for women over the age of 45). There is also $5m allocated for youth traineeships. This investment is expected to create around 10,000 jobs.
  • Jobs and skills advocates to reach out to jobseekers in their communities, understand what they need to get into work, and connect them to training, skills development and mentoring.
  • Jobs mentors and career counsellors at Jobs Victoria delivery sites – mentors will work with jobseekers to get them ready for work and counsellors will help to match people with a job. This will be complemented by an online jobs platform and helpline.
  • Enhanced use of social procurement – leveraging government’s purchasing power to support job creation.

 

Big Build Apprenticeships

$6.6m in 2020/21 ($33.1m/4yrs)

The Department of Education and Training will coordinate the employment and training of apprentices and trainees on Big Build infrastructure projects. The new oversight arrangements are intended to create high-quality skills pathways for apprentices and trainees, and secure a pipeline of skilled workers in critical areas. The funding is expected to support the employment and training of up to 1,500 apprentices and trainees each year. School leavers and jobseekers will be able to register their interest from December 2020 and start their apprenticeship or traineeship from March 2021.

 

Apprenticeship Growth Strategy

$9.7m in 2020/21 ($19.3m/2yrs)

This funding will:

  • Continue and enhance the Apprenticeship Support Officer program to target apprentices most at risk of dropping out.
  • Boost commencements and ensure retrenched apprentices and trainees complete their training through an Apprenticeship Innovation Fund.

 

Skills for women, young people, migrants, vulnerable Victorians and retrenched workers

$42.7m in 2020-21 ($155.5m/4yrs)

This funding will provide additional flexibility for Victorians particularly affected by economic disruption including women, young people, migrants, vulnerable Victorians and retrenched workers to access subsidised and Free TAFE training to reskill and upskill in 2021. Targeted opportunities will be made available through TAFE and other training providers across Victoria, making it easier for Victorians with pre-existing qualifications to retrain for sectors that need more skilled workers.

 

 

Skills for resilient and emerging industries

$7.2m in 2020/21 ($74.8m/4yrs)

The Budget supports the rapid retraining of workers into high-priority industries through:

  • Increased access to accredited skills sets (through a new Victorian Funded Skill Set List).
  • A Workforce Skills Set Pilot.
  • New Skills and Job Centres and onsite support to provide workers with skills advice and address project-specific training needs at the North East Link project and new Footscray Hospital project.

This investment also includes additional funding to support Victorias transition to a cleaner economy, including partnerships between education and training providers and industry to design new skills pathways. A Clean Economy Skills and Jobs Taskforce and Workforce Development Strategy will assess the skills needs of the sector, including identifying opportunities for Victorians affected by economic disruption.

 

Pathways to employment in growth sectors

$4.2m in 2020/21 ($16.6m/3yrs)

Funding is provided for additional job training opportunities to support students and jobseekers looking to pursue a career in community services. The package comprises funding for:

  • Vacation internships and financial support for undergraduates completing child protection studies.
  • Carer relief and other supports to assist unpaid carers to undertake studies and clinical placements.
  • Traineeships in community services organisations, with a focus on developing pathways towards becoming a family violence worker.
  • The establishment of a new family violence graduate program to create a structured pathway into specialist family violence positions.

 

Impact 21

$1.3m in 2020/21

This program will create new employment pathways for people with an intellectual disability, including Down syndrome, by developing work-ready skills in secondary school and tailoring roles and support in collaboration with employers.

 

Secure Work

$5m in 2020-21

COVID-19 has exposed the negative health and wellbeing impacts of insecure work. The Victorian Government will establish a Secure Work Transition Scheme, in order to provide up to five days of sick and carer’s pay at the national minimum wage for casual or insecure workers in priority industries. This $5m investment will provide for further policy development, modelling, consultation and stakeholder engagement to finalise the design of the transition scheme.

 

Further policy directions

The State Budget’s Jobs Plan sets ambitious job creation targets, with every government department playing its part to generate opportunities in their areas of industry focus. It will be important for the Victorian Government to establish robust coordination and oversight to ensure departments avoid program/project duplication, leverage complementary activities, meet targets and deliver high-value outcomes for jobseekers, workers, employers and government. Additionally, it is vital that the Government’s investment in skills, training and job creation is focused on sustainable pathways and sustainable jobs.

The Budget ramps up support for jobseekers who experience personal and systemic barriers to getting a job and keeping a job, via Jobs Victoria. It also expands school-based mental health services, mentoring and other supports that will help students make a successful transition to training and employment. There is an opportunity to embed equivalent models of support in the vocational education and training system. Funding to provide more flexible, wraparound support at TAFE for vulnerable learners – for example, students with disabilities – would be a game-changer. It would help drive up the attendance, participation, retention, completion and attainment of students at risk of disengagement, and strengthen their employment pathway.

For Victorians experiencing socio-economic disadvantage, the cost of vocational education and training can be prohibitive – even with access to Free TAFE. Government-funded scholarships could help students reduce associated costs such as childcare, transport and books, improving access to training and increasing completion rates. Scholarships could also support more workers to upskill to degree qualifications.

Another area that warrants attention is student placements. Every year, thousands of students are attracted to community services qualifications, but are deterred from pursuing their career pathway because of difficulties obtaining student placement hours. We need to create capacity in community service organisations to take on increased student placement numbers and enhance the level of workplace support so that students stay in the sector beyond their placement. A centralised support and supervision model for student placements would be transformative for small to medium sized community services organisations, particularly in regional Victoria.

The Secure Work Transition Scheme is warmly welcomed. In the community services sector, the root causes of insecure work could be remedied by moving to longer-term contracts and fairer funding – including increased indexation.