The focus of this paper is the training and education needs of jobless Australians with limited education and skills: more than half those jobless people affected by the Welfare to Work policy have Year 10 qualifications or less, including more than 60 per cent of jobless Parenting Payment recipients and people with disabilities. This greatly disadvantages them in the jobs market. The Australian Industry Group estimates that 86 per cent of occupations require a post-secondary qualification.1 On average, possession of at least Year 12 qualifications or their equivalent increases the probability of employment by around 30 per cent and reduces the risk of unemployment by about 60 per cent.
ACOSS therefore welcomes the Government’s announcement in its Skills for the Future package that Work Skills Vouchers of up to $3,000 will be offered to jobless people with less than Year 12 qualifications, to improve their literacy and basic education and to secure vocational qualifications. This should assist low skilled jobless workers to secure future employment, given that most new jobs in the next decade are likely to be skilled jobs requiring qualifications. However, it will be difficult for many jobless income support recipients to take advantage of the Work Skills Vouchers and other training opportunities unless the Welfare to Work policy is adjusted to encourage participation in education and training. The Welfare to Work policy emphasises moving people rapidly into jobs, often at the expense of upgrading their skills. Instead of giving priority to either rapid job entry or skills development, Welfare to Work policies should respond in a flexible way to the circumstances of each jobseeker. Many need training as well as help with job search, and the policy should accommodate this.