The government’s flagship indigenous job creation program that aimed to employ 5000 people by the end of the year has resulted in just 471 jobs retained for longer than six months.
Based on the GenerationOne employment model developed by mining magnate Andrew Forrest, the $70 million Vocational Training and Employment Centres were an election commitment of the Coalition and are designed to reward businesses for keeping indigenous Australians employed.
Figures obtained by The Australian from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet show that while 2723 people have started the VTEC program since January 2014, just 471 have secured employment for the targeted 26 weeks.
A total of 1978 indigenous jobseekers have been placed in jobs in the past 18 months. Many may yet meet the 26-week employment target by the end of the year.
But about 10 per cent of participants — 237 people — have begun jobs and dropped out of the program, and a further 192 people have left the program before beginning employment.
The program has so far cost about $20m.
The figures provided by the department suggest the retention rate for those who begin employment placements is about 66 per cent.
Labor indigenous affairs spokesman Shayne Neumann said the results suggested the program was falling short of its promised benefits and the government would fail to meet the 5000 jobs pledge.
“This has been going on for almost two years now and we have dismal results,” Mr Neumann said.
“It hasn’t started well, the drop-out rates are already significant, and only 17.3 per cent of people who have started have reached the 26 weeks, so that is not a good outcome.”
But GenerationOne’s national manager of vocational training and employment Matthew O’Sullivan said the outcomes were positive, particularly given the program dealt with many hardcore unemployed.
“With several thousand indigenous people moving into employment already and with many more expected do so by the end of the year, GenerationOne is proud of what is being achieved by the network of VTECs,” he said.
“This is particularly so when you consider that VTECs are required to target indigenous jobseekers that have been assessed by Centrelink as having significant and multiple barriers to employment.”
Under the program, VTEC providers are contracted to employ strategies to ensure job retention rates and must provide post-placement support throughout the 26 weeks of employment.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said the government was monitoring the program.
“While it is too early to assess final outcomes, the government is monitoring progress closely and supporting VTECs to reach employment targets,” Senator Scullion said.
The government initially committed $45m for the country’s 28 VTECs to place up to 5000 indigenous Australians into “guaranteed jobs”. A further $25m was committed to the program in last year’s budget under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.