In 2011, the Gillard government announced a policy of ‘Earn or Learn’.
The initiative was designed to ensure that high school students completed Year 12, either through an academic stream or an optional vocational stream.
In effect, this meant that students who wished to leave school before Year 12 had to have an ensured occupation through apprenticeship or traineeship.
The Abbott government has retained the slogan but its intent is far different.
Under the proposed changes to Newstart, those 30 years or under will have to either work for the dole or partake in a ‘learning/training’ course.
This gives rise to a couple of scenario’s.
Let’s examine the first;
You’ve left school at Year 12 but don’t want to go to university.
You want to be a tradesman but thanks to the ever shrinking number of apprenticeships and the continued closure of TAFE’s, this doesn’t seem to be possible.
After applying for unemployment benefits and fulfilling your ‘mutual obligation’ to fruitlessly apply for 40 jobs a month over the past six months, you’re now faced with the choice of either joining the Green Army to pick up up garbage and pull weeds, or enroll in a government approved training course.
When you left school, it was summer. It is now winter, and you don’t want to spend 20 hours a week in the pouring rain and freezing cold, so you opt for the training course.
The range of courses on offer is fairly narrow and none of them will be helpful in aiding you to realize your ambition of becoming a qualified tradesperson.
The chances are you will be offered the choice of the following; Hospitality (waiter, waitress, kitchen hand), Transport and Logistics (truck driver, fork lift operator, storeman), Cleaning (self explanatory), Aged Care (ditto) or Security (watchman, guard, crowd control).
If you’re in a hurry, there are also short courses that cover Red and White Card in construction or ‘traffic management’ (Stop/Go sign holder), food handler, Barista, Barman etc…
Whatever course you choose, it will be delivered through a Registered Training Organization (RTO). These are organizations which are usually an arm of the Jobs Australia Network.
Many of them are shelf companies which means that your Job Network Provider can bid on further contracts from the government without having to go through the proscribed waiting period required under business legislation.
This means that not only can your Job Network Provider make a claim from the government for having you on their books but also picks up extra dollars for the referral to the RTO (themselves) which in turn collects the fee for your course from the government, and also enables it to minimize its tax payments.
In addition, most of the current Job Network Providers and RTO’s are owned by overseas corporations such as the UK owned A4e or the US owned Maxx Employment.
These corporations rake in in literally billions of dollars per year. Under the previous Labor government the Job Network system alone received 1.5 billion dollars as part of the ALP’s 4.5 billion dollar ‘Welfare to Work’ scheme.
Under the proposed changes to Newstart eligibility, this can be expected to triple, making being a contracted Job Network Provider with an RTO arm a lucrative business indeed.
Needless to say with billions in subsidies floating around, corruption of the Job Network System has flourished, and readers should refer to the March edition of The Post for more on this.
Now that you’ve completed your course and clutching your newly minted Certificate II or III in a limited field of semi-skilled labour, you can go an join the end of the dole queue and wait another six months before claiming benefits and joining the Green Army.
As far as the government’s concerned, you’ve already ‘learned’ and therefore you are no longer eligible for subsidized training courses.
You may of course undertake other courses in Certificate II or III occupations – but at your own expense.
As far as your potential employer is concerned, while you have the ‘qualifications’ for the job, you don’t have any experience and besides, there are already at least another 40 applicants for the same position.
The second scenario is even nastier.
You’ve put in three or four years tertiary study. You’re now a qualified Engineer (Electronic, Mechanical or IT), Nurse, Dentist, Environmental Scientist, Teacher, or Lawyer.
You’ve got a HECS debt that an Olympic pole-vaulter couldn’t jump over.
As you’ve quickly discovered during your freshman or sophomore year, a tertiary degree is no guarantee of a job.
You plowed on however, and endured the social and financial deprivation because you loved study and believed in the value of education not only as a tool to dispel ignorance, but as a means of making the world a better place.
Alas, for you as a graduate, there is no ‘earn or learn’. You’ve already used up your government subsidized allowance with your HECS debt.
Any additional ‘learning’ through the Job Network System is at your own expense.
Jobs? According to Christopher Pyne, you have a 75% better chance of earning capacity than your non-tertiary qualified bretheren; in fact Chris says that your degree will enable you to earn over a million dollars in your lifetime.
As for a job in your chosen field of study – well, that’s a little more difficult. If you’re a nurse, you’ll find that most vacancies are already filled by 457 visa holders.
Teacher? As a probationary teacher you’ll struggle to find enough Casual Relief Teaching available to fulfill the requirement to become a fully fledged teacher and will most likely ‘be on call’ for the next few years along with several thousand other teachers that the University’s graduate every year.
No, my tertiary qualified friend, for you as they used to say in the former Soviet Union; ‘Is really tough-ski shit-ski!’
For you, its a six month wait to be followed by the joys of joining the Green Army where your degree will do you as much good as a five cent coin in a pokies venue.
Oh, and the twenty hours a week that you work in order to receive your benefits will seriously erode your chances of applying for jobs that you are qualified for. In addition, it’s a general rule of thumb that if you don’t find work in your chosen field in the first three months of graduation, then the chances are that you never will.
To say these proposed changes to unemployment benefits borders on criminal negligence is like saying that the surface of the Sun is hot – a gross understatement.
On the primary level, the Job Network Provider system is and always has been a sham.
The sole purpose of these organizations is to make a profit out of the unemployed by either forcing them into low paid casual/part time work or to breach them for failure to comply with their ‘mutual obligation’ contracts and therefore suspend or terminate their benefits – they get paid to do either or both.
The so called ‘learning’ qualifications and ‘training sessions’ are also a sham and carry little or no weight in the workplace save to ensure the employer that you can actually read, write and wont question either wages or conditions – especially those related to occupational health and safety.
As The Post conjectured last week, the secondary purpose of these proposed changes carries a far more sinister purpose – that of conscription by stealth.
In summary, if you’re a school leaver or unemployed and between the ages of 18 and 30, then you’re considered fodder for the Job Network System as a unit of profit for their organization and as you’ll rapidly discover, your ‘learning’ qualifications, be they tertiary or vocational – mean absolutely nothing.