The Australian Council of Social Services has a new and dynamic vision to empower communities to grow local jobs and skills support and respond quickly to local needs in a time of unprecedented employment challenges.
Local Employment and Skills Partnerships are part of a wider set of policies that ACOSS has been advocating for, including lifting Jobseeker and other payments so that people can meet basic living costs.
The partnerships would provide the unemployed with the guidance, skills and paid work experience they will need to secure jobs in a tough labour market.
"ACOSS believes an innovative approach - local partnerships - is needed because the current employment services and training systems will struggle to meet the needs of the 1.6 million people on Jobseeker payments,'' ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said.
"In today's volatile jobs environment, where jobs are fast disappearing and being replaced by different ones, people who are unemployed need paid work experience, career guidance and training to upskill and change careers.
"Employment programs must be scaled up quickly in response to mass unemployment. When this happens there's always a risk that schemes designed in Canberra don't meet local needs."
The proposed partnerships would be local regional advisory bodies connecting local employers, unions, the unemployed and community services with job service and training providers like Job Active and local TAFEs.
These local and dynamic networks would:
- work with local government and communities to devise local strategies to create jobs and reduce unemployment,
- map current and future job openings and the skills required, and make this information available to career counsellors in employment services and schools,
- connect employment services, TAFEs and schools with employers to meet their workforce development needs,
- provide feedback to governments on how employment and training programs are working on the ground.
The proposal is informed by discussions ACOSS held with employer and union and community organisations and other experts in this area, including the Brotherhood of St Laurence and Centre for Policy Development.
"We know that people who are unemployed, and also many businesses and services across the country, are struggling to survive and adapt to COVID-19, mass unemployment, and a collapse in consumer demand," Dr Goldie said.
"Communities want to work together now to support local people who are unemployed or struggling to sustain businesses and services. The proposed local partnerships offer a new way to do this."
Dr Goldie said new challenges called for new solutions and the organisation was putting its partnerships proposal to the Australian government, as part of its response to mass unemployment.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence Youth Department's principal advisor, Sally James said this approach was already having positive outcomes on the ground.
"The federal government obviously has responsibility to address youth unemployment and they have a national youth employment program and transition to work, which is a good program, but it cannot address youth employment issues alone, they have to form part of a place-based approach," Ms James said.
She also said research indicated that unemployment issues required "a locally, community-driven response" where leaders in the business sector, leaders in the education and training sector, all levels of government and community, came together to address these issues.
"Unless you have that cross-sectioned approach, you are not going to get that streamlined pathway to employment for young people."
It is important, she believes, to bring supply and demand together in an intentional way.
"Young people need to know where the jobs are, they need to know what the jobs look like and they need to become ready for those jobs in a way employers expect them to be ready."
This process also needs to factor in regional differences, which brings Community Investment Committees or CICs to the fore.
CICs operate in three localities in different states and have identified around 200 entry-level employment opportunities. They have coordinated the efforts of employers, education and training providers and employment services to prepare and support young people for those positions.
The other important piece of the puzzle, Ms James said, was that communities couldn't do it alone and needed a link to the federal government to unlock funding and investment opportunities, so they were more effective in local areas.
"What we are calling on is for is all of this great work by communities ... to be recognised by the federal government as the go-through place to talk to these communities about how they address youth unemployment," Ms James said.
"They need to be able to mandate these CICs as the place for planning in addressing youth unemployment in the local area, instead of having a scattergun approach ... and a competitive approach around tendering where you're not actually recognising what already exists in local communities through these effective committees."