Karen Lomas
May 10, 2016

The PaTH Plan

Photo courtesy of Rodion Kutsaev

Photo courtesy of Rodion Kutsaev


The government PaTH Plan (Prepare, Trial, Hire) scheme, has been receiving a lot of press. In areas of high unemployment, hopes are high. After all, there are 120,00 people between the ages of 17 an 24 currently claiming income support, so something needs doing!

But then we have commentators such as Anna Patty, of The Age newspaper, in Victoria, warning that the PaTH plan was at risk of “becoming a jobs destruction plan”. Meanwhile, on Saturday, Heath Aston, in his article about employers within the scheme, referred to a practice of ‘churning’ – i.e. that it could be a temptation for employers to take on a young person, give them a small amount of training, and then not actually employ them at the end of the program. So ‘churning’, as in akin to making butter – in one end, and spewed out the other side something different, but eminently perishable. Decidedly unsettling!

It has to be said, the government PaTH plan, has merit. The idea is to get those long-time unemployed youth into work. Department of Employment secretary Renee Leon, stated that employers would indeed be tracked during the scheme, in order to monitor to what extent the interns are given jobs at the end of the subsidised period (of 4 – 6 weeks, of 15 to 25 hours work a week, at $4 per hour). The pay received by participants will be on top of the $263 per week Newstart allowance. For this employers will be paid $1000, so businesses are being incentivised to participate.

On ABC Radio National’s Breakfast program this morning, in a feature discussion, Dimiti Mannering, Chief Executive of Interns Australia, stated that the PaTH Plan needs to be fair; “we don’t want internships replacing paid work”. Pat Lewis, Chair of the Board of Youth Connections, in New South Wales, stated that it is “good to see, but for the longterm unemployed it’s an inadequate program”. Conversely, Matthew Lash, Institute of Public Affairs, argues that pay rates are too high and this program is therefore “a necessary connection between the gap of skills of young people and the potential employability they need to have”. 

I have to say, it’s quite an expensive initiative and who is to say that the young people in this program are going to learn much? In Victoria, there is an area of study that is offered in secondary schools entitled ‘Industry and Enterprise’, key feature of which is the structured workplace learning that students are required to undertake.  This is a relatively low cost initiative and if it worked well, it would teach most 15 year olds the fundamental skills needed for entering the workforce. But I know from painful experience that many employers who agree to take on students under the Work Experience Program put very very little thought into what training they are going to provide in the week-long program. So besides the cash incentive, how do we know that employers within the government PaTH Plan are going to do any better? Even if they do keep the young person on (there’s a bonus for doing that), will they just pocket the cash and simply have the young person sweeping floors?

I have a few more thoughts on this:

First, one commentator referred to “unscrupulous employers”. To whom might they be referring, I wonder? Well, we all know about 7Eleven, don’t we, but who is to say that there isn’t unscrupulousness all over the place? An anecdote I can relate on this matter is of the 22 year old university student who was required as part of her course to obtain an internship. Beyond the set period that was required for her to gain ‘course credits’ (points for doing the internship that go towards the qualification), she continued working at the high profile marketing business for nothing, for quite some time, and when the company asked her to stay on, they offered her HALF the minimum wage for the job type. Mmnn, unscrupulous indeed.

Next, are the individuals going to receive training in applying for jobs, in order that the first fundamental skills of resume writing and interview skills are obtained? It’s all very well providing the long term unemployed an internship, but unless that have those core skills under their belts they will struggle come the time the PaTH Plan ends and they’re seeking to gain a meaningful career move.

So finally I’d say that in current conditions of high levels of youth unemployment and a casualised jobs market, the government’s PaTH Plan is broadly a welcome initiative, particularly where youth unemployment is at its highest. It needs safeguards and I’m hopeful that when the fine details are available we will hear that the preparations are put in place such that entrants to the scheme are well supported, and creation of internships is well managed in order to avoid poor up-take, as in previous examples of subsidy programs.

I find it terribly frustrating to hear worry in the voices of 15, 16, 18, 20 year olds when they talk to me about how hard it is to get a job. I always tell them to be enterprising and offer their services as a babysitter, or dog walker, or front up at the bakery and see if they’re hiring. That way an employer can see that they have learned about being reliable and trustworthy. Meanwhile, I witness brilliant work being done in some schools, and with good employer partnerships it is possible to make sure that a young person can experience the workforce as early as age 15. It’s these ‘tasters’ of a workplace, or a number of work environments, that can invigorate an individual to see where they might fit, and how they might contribute to not only the earnings of their family, but to the community and society as a whole. This way they find meaning, rather than feeling churned and spurned.





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