Go to top of page

Program 1.1 Employment Services


Jobactive is the Australian Government’s mainstream employment services system. In 2018–19, the program’s fourth year, jobactive providers continued to provide flexible and practical support to help participants stay motivated to find and keep a job, move from welfare to work, and meet their mutual obligations. The department also continued to work closely with providers and employers to support them and understand recruitment and labour market needs.

jobactive’s performance continues to be strong in delivering high-quality employment services, with more than 1.4 million job placements since July 2015 and around 1,000 job placements every day.

Under the jobactive contract, employment outcomes are proving to be sustainable, with 82.5 per cent of jobactive participants still in employment three months after their job placement.

In March 2019, in response to the independent panel report ‘I want to work: Employment Services 2020’, the Government announced a significant transformation to employment services that will harness technology and digital services to allow more job-ready participants to self-service. This will make resources available to reinvest in more intensive services for more disadvantaged participants, providing significant help to reduce long-term unemployment. Participants will also be able to exercise more independence and flexibility, choosing from a wide range of activities to meet their mutual obligations. Employers will benefit from a range of interactive digital tools to help find the right people.

A phased approach will ensure that the new model delivers the best possible services, starting with a trial in 2019–20 in the Adelaide South (SA) and Mid North Coast (NSW) employment regions. The current jobactive model and complementary programs will continue in other areas until the new model is rolled out nationally in 2022.

Seasonal Work Incentives Trial

The Seasonal Work Incentives Trial was introduced on 1 July 2017 and ceased on 30 June 2019.

The Trial offered incentives for eligible job seekers from jobactive, Transition to Work and Disability Employment Services to take up short-term seasonal work in the horticulture industry. In 2018–19, 201 job seekers participated in the Trial.

Despite considerable effort by the department in promoting the program, take-up of the Trial was much lower than anticipated. An evaluation of the Trial will provide valuable insights as to why this was so.

Job Seeker Snapshot (online JSCI)

The Job Seeker Classification Instrument (JSCI) is a questionnaire used to help identify what level of support a job seeker will need to help them find work. It is completed as part of a person’s claim for income support.

As part of the Government’s Digital Transformation Agenda, the department committed to making employment services simple and easy to use through digital servicing. With this focus in mind, the JSCI assessment was made available on an online platform called the Job Seeker Snapshot.

Following a collaborative design process, a trial of the Job Seeker Snapshot was launched on 1 July 2018. As at 22 May 2019, more than 79,000 job seekers had been invited to complete their Job Seeker Snapshot online, with 39,000 (49 per cent) completing it so far.

After six months of trialling the Job Seeker Snapshot, an evaluation was conducted through the Social Research Centre. Findings showed that the Job Seeker Snapshot had elicited accurate self-disclosure from job seekers and produced accurate streaming of job seekers.

The Job Seeker Snapshot trial has been extended until 2022 and will be available to new cohorts of job seekers who were not eligible to participate in the original trial. The Job Seeker Snapshot is also being used in the new Employment Services Trial.

Targeted Compliance Framework

The Targeted Compliance Framework was introduced on 1 July 2018 as one of several measures implemented by the department to help job seekers meet their mutual obligation requirements. The Targeted Compliance Framework delivers clearer and more streamlined information to ensure people are better informed about the requirements. It applies to job seekers and participants who receive an income support payment and who are registered with a jobactive, Disability Employment Services or ParentsNext provider.

During 2018–19, the Targeted Compliance Framework ensured that those who are genuinely disadvantaged and vulnerable were identified and supported, and applied stronger penalties to job seekers who wilfully and persistently failed to meet their mutual obligation requirements. It reflected the expectations of the wider Australian community, and encouraged people receiving income support to take personal responsibility to look for work or participate in activities intended to help them build skills. Job seekers who fail to meet their mutual obligation requirements initially have their payment delayed only until they re-engage, and incur demerits, rather than financial penalties, for failures without a valid reason. Job seekers who incur five demerits in six months potentially risk financial penalties for additional non-compliance.

Data gathered since implementation indicates that the framework is operating as intended and meeting the Government’s policy and program objectives to deter deliberate and wilful non‑compliant behaviour while protecting and providing safeguards for vulnerable job seekers through capability reviews. The majority of job seekers have demonstrated that they are meeting their mutual obligation requirements and are doing the right thing. From 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019:

  • attendance at appointments with employment services providers increased to 75 per cent
  • there was a 90 per cent reduction in financial penalties compared to the old framework.

Career Transition Assistance Trial

The Career Transition Assistance Trial commenced on 2 July 2018, with 10 organisations providing services in the five trial regions of Adelaide South (SA), Somerset (Qld), Central West (NSW) Ballarat (Vic) and Perth North (WA).

Career Transition Assistance was designed to provide practical assistance to help mature-age job seekers registered with a jobactive provider to increase their employability through identifying skills transferability and opportunities to reskill, tailoring job applications to the local labour market and improving digital literacy skills.

Career Transition Assistance — Catherine

Catherine, from Queensland, rebuilt her skills and confidence to re-join the workforce in a full-time role, thanks to Career Transition Assistance (CTA).

Catherine had a long career in nursing but after this finished she spent over two years looking for work. She didn’t have the technological skills she needed to help her find and apply for jobs, and her self-esteem was at an all‑time low.

Catherine said that after only a few weeks with CTA she had learned a range of contemporary job-seeking skills, including writing emails and formatting cover letters. In addition, she said, ‘We were actually able to help each other.’

Catherine is now working as a full-time childhood educator and said she was ‘very, very excited‘ when she received the job. ‘I would thoroughly recommend the CTA program just to overcome your fears and challenges.’​

Work for the Dole

Work for the Dole continues to provide opportunities for participants to gain the skills, experience and confidence to help them move into work while making a positive contribution to the community. Work for the Dole activities are hosted by not-for-profit organisations and government agencies. The program provides a valuable opportunity for job seekers to demonstrate their capabilities and remain connected to the labour market while making a positive contribution to the local community.

Post-program monitoring data shows that many job seekers have started work soon after leaving Work for the Dole: 24.8 per cent of job seekers surveyed who exited a Work for the Dole activity between 1 January 2018 and 31 December 2018 were in employment three months later.

The department also surveys job seekers six weeks after they start in a Work for the Dole activity. A total of 6,300 job seekers who participated in Work for the Dole between 1 February 2018 and 31 January 2019 were surveyed about their experience with the program. There was a 40 per cent response rate. Work for the Dole is primarily an activation program. Indicating its effectiveness in this regard, 76.7 per cent of participants surveyed reported an increase in their motivation to find a job. Respondents also reported Work for the Dole as having a positive impact in their life and reported a high level of satisfaction with their Work for the Dole activities:

  • 75.6 per cent reported improved ability to work with others
  • 73.5 per cent reported increased self-confidence
  • 70.6 per cent reported improved work-related skills
  • 76.4 per cent were satisfied with the quality of the activity
  • 83.4 per cent believed the activity helped the local community
  • 81.6 per cent were satisfied with the level of supervision
  • 83.6 per cent were satisfied that they had a safe work environment
  • 78.5 per cent were satisfied with the organisation of the activity.

National Work Experience Programme

The National Work Experience Programme places job seekers in real life, unpaid work experience. It helps them gain experience while demonstrating their skills to potential employers.

Participating in the program provides job seekers with the opportunity to:

  • demonstrate skills like teamwork, communication and reliability
  • increase their confidence and show they are ready for work
  • meet new people and make useful contacts.

At the end of their work experience placement, they may be offered a job with the organisation.

Since the expansion of the National Work Experience Programme on 1 July 2018 to expand eligibility to 17 years and over, increase placement numbers and increase completion payments, there has been a 24 per cent increase in participation in jobactive.

National Work Experience Programme — Café 2820

Young job seeker Kyralea had been registered with her jobactive provider Sureway Employment and Training for 13 weeks when she began a National Work Experience Programme (NWEP) activity at the small business Café 2820. The activity involved assisting the chef, preparing food, cleaning equipment, and checking inventory.

Since undertaking her NWEP placement, Kyralea has gained casual employment. She believes her placement ‘brought me out of my shell. It helped me to get to know people in a comfortable environment which gave me more confidence‘.

Kyralea’s employer Tamara, a small business owner, said, ‘It’s a great way to identify a good employee, which I now have. I would recommend the NWEP to other businesses; it’s a simple process.’ Tamara would be ‘happy to trial more people moving forward‘.

Kyralea noted that NWEP ‘definitely helped as I got a job out of it, so it was a great way to get my foot in the door’.

New Business Assistance with NEIS

In 2018–19, 6,692 people started a small business with training and mentoring support through New Business Assistance with NEIS1.

Business skills and mentoring to support a new creative arts business

Inspired by the magic of the movie Mary Poppins and equipped with a Bachelor of Visual Arts, Hannah used her creative talents to make paper flowers for events. She wanted to make this passion her work but wasn’t sure how to take the next step and create a viable small business.

Hannah signed up to New Business Assistance with NEIS in early 2018 and, through the program, gained the skills and knowledge required to start her business Miss Poppins & Me. As part of NEIS, she enrolled in accredited business training, where she learned how to operate and market her business. Armed with the training and mentoring from her NEIS provider, she developed a business plan to help bring her dream to life.

Hannah made paper flowers by hand, cutting each petal and leaf from various types of paper, as well as flower stems and twinkle lights. Her NEIS provider, Box Hill Institute, encouraged her to look at expanding her business idea to use a range of different materials, such as canvas and leather, in her flowers. By doing this, she broadened her product to appeal to a wider range of potential customers.

Hannah sold her flowers through an online store. Fashion businesses, including Seafolly and Target, used Miss Poppins & Me flowers in their window displays. Online magazine Whim and fashion brand Katies have incorporated the paper flowers into their photoshoots for marketing campaigns.

With the help of the NEIS program, Hannah has been able to develop her artistic talent into a successful business.

Hannah making paper flowers

Harvest Labour Services

To help meet the labour needs of horticultural enterprises, the department contracts Harvest Labour Services (HLS) providers to match out-of-area workers with harvesting jobs in rural and regional areas. In 2018–19 the five HLS providers filled just under 18,000 harvest positions in 11 harvest areas: Kununurra, Top End, Tablelands, North Burnett, Southern Queensland, Riverina, Goulburn Valley, Mid Murray, Sunraysia, Riverland and Adelaide Hills.

HLS providers report that, while employers sometimes experience difficulty recruiting staff at short notice, there are no widespread labour shortages in areas covered by the program and that it is meeting employer demand. Providers continue to reach out to employers and industry associations, offering them assistance in securing suitable, legal labour.

The Government, in the 2019–20 Budget, announced reforms to HLS. The reforms, to commence from 1 July 2020, will include expanding the number of HLS regions, incentivising HLS providers to place Australian job seekers into horticultural seasonal work, and enhancing the National Harvest Labour Information Service and Harvest Trail website. Reforms will also include collaborating with the horticulture industry to develop industry-led proposals to promote seasonal work opportunities to Australian job seekers and help employers understand opportunities available to hire Australian workers.

National Harvest Labour Information Service

To help promote harvest work opportunities across all growing regions in Australia, the department contracts the provider of the National Harvest Labour Information Service to produce a comprehensive harvest guide, operate a free-call call centre, and keep the Harvest Trail website up to date. In 2018–19, the National Harvest Labour Information Service received more than 12,600 calls from employers, working holiday-makers and Australian job seekers.

Launch into Work program

The Launch into Work program continues to bridge the gap to employment for job seekers, such as women returning to the labour market, who face particular barriers to employment.

The program aims to provide employment opportunities for job seekers who are unlikely to be successful at gaining an interview or employment through traditional recruitment methods. It works with employers to co-design projects that will prepare job seekers for specific roles within the employing organisation. All projects include targeted training, work experience, mentoring and a commitment from the employer to hire all participants who successfully complete a pre-employment project.

The program continues to achieve positive employment outcomes for job seekers and to support Australia’s G20 goal to reduce the gender gap in women’s workforce participation by 25 per cent by 2025. Of the 186 job seekers who gained employment as a result of the program, 167 were women.

Indigenous mentors inspire and build confidence

In 2018–19, jobactive providers across Australia employed Indigenous mentors, who play a vital role supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with culturally appropriate career advice in a positive environment.

Victoria’s story

Victoria is a survivor with a bright future. After leaving an abusive relationship, living with a relative with substance abuse issues, and caring for her terminally ill father, she connected with an Indigenous mentor. Victoria now has a thriving career in mining.

When her father passed away, Victoria made contact with Kambarang Place, an Indigenous women’s refuge.

‘They took me in, looked after me, supported me in everything and provided counselling. I cried a lot. I was with them for just over three months until they assisted me in finding me somewhere to live,’ Victoria said.

The refuge encouraged Victoria to start the Indigenous program Yira Yarkiny (meaning ‘To stand tall’) and to work with her mentor. ‘My mentor asked me if I would be interested in fly-in fly-out mining work as a peggy worker. I thought, “Why not!”‘ Victoria said. A peggy worker performs a range of roles at a mining site, including cleaning crib rooms and transporting workers from camp to site.

‘With my mentor’s support I updated my résumé and was amazed I was offered an interview right away. My mentor asked me if I wanted and needed support for my interview and offered to drive me there. I met with the employer and, after the interview, I was told I was successful and that I got the job.’

After completing the medical tests and online induction, Victoria started in her first job, at Cloudbreak Mine and Yandi Mine, and received positive feedback from her employer.

‘I loved it! I had a few hiccups along the way with racism. I knew right then with the support the mining company gave me and the support from my mentor that they were the right company for me. It was dealt with in an amazing manner.’

Her employer has continued to put her forward for more jobs and she has been given further training, including working at heights and in confined spaces, gas testing and fire emergency response, so she can apply for trades assistant roles.

‘Overall, I’m loving life at the moment and so proud of who I am and who I have become. I am a proud Aboriginal woman. Believe in yourself because it can happen. It has to me.’

Victoria’s jobactive provider is ESG Matchworks in Gosnells, Western Australia.

Victoria and her mentor
Tina’s story

Tina standing on the steps of Rydges hotel in Kalgoorlie
​​Tina standing on the steps of Rydges hotel in Kalgoorlie

Tina, a stay-at-home mum, connected with Indigenous mentor Kerrie Stones, who helped her prepare an impressive résumé to gain her first job at the local Rydges hotel in Kalgoorlie.

Not having any work history, Tina needed Kerrie’s encouragement and support to build her confidence and communication skills to help her look for a job. Together they discussed the local job market and prepared a résumé targeting roles in hospitality and cleaning.

In talking with Kerrie, Tina discovered that her organisational, time management and cleaning skills, gained while caring for her family, were valued by employers. They also worked together to build up Tina’s self-confidence and communication skills.

Through her contacts with local businesses, Kerrie brokered a trial opportunity with a hotel housekeeping team.

Although she was initially nervous, Tina made a great impression and was soon offered a job. Six months on, Tina has been steadily increasing her hours and is a valued member of the housekeeping team.‘

I’m really loving working and the work I’m doing. MAX really helped me find a job in something I really love doing when I didn’t think I would be given a chance. I’m very happy.’

Tina’s jobactive provider is MAX Employment, Kalgoorlie.

Engaging with a Karen community — helping them help us


HELP community liaison officer Kaw Hser Paw Hlaing (hatless, front and centre) supporting her community on site.
HELP community liaison officer Kaw Hser Paw Hlaing (hatless, front and centre) supporting her community on site.

With employment growth in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry projected to increase by 14 per cent over the five years to May 2023, local farmers across the Somerset (Qld) Employment Region are excited about an influx of skilled farm workers to meet that growth following the collaboration between Growcom, jobactive provider Help Enterprises (HELP), the department and the local Karen (Myanmar) community.

​At a local forum in February 2019, the Karen community expressed frustration at not being able to access work. HELP was in attendance and responded by hiring one of their interpreters, Kaw Hser Paw Hlaing, as a community liaison officer to engage with community leaders to create job opportunities. The department was also at the forum and linked HELP with Growcom, who were piloting a trial to source skilled labour for a number of strawberry farms in the region. On the back of this pilot, HELP was able to work with Growcom to widen the pool of potential employers.

Over March and April 2019, HELP worked to gain the trust of the Karen community and to understand how best to work with them. HELP learned that by working with the community leaders through Kaw Hser Paw Hlaing they were able to find suitable people for the roles, arrange a car pool to ensure they could get to site, and provide back-ups in case someone was unable to attend.

Each group of five workers had at least one worker with good English skills to help with communication. On-the-job site visits were undertaken to familiarise the Karen workers with the farms and what they would be doing each day. Kaw Hser Paw Hlaing was in attendance throughout to ensure that any issues that came up were quickly resolved.

HELP’s work both with the Karen community to identify suitable workers and with the farms to identify opportunities resulted in the first 20 Karen workers starting paid work on 21 May 2019.

The department, Growcom and HELP are reviewing data and discussing volume, demand and opportunities to work towards the introduction of a larger version of the successful Karen community pilot. Farms in the local area are working with this group to help create a pipeline of ongoing work for all 52 weeks of the year, moving across farms as needed. The demand is high, with one farm looking to source 30 to 40 more workers immediately.

Developing the future employment services model

With jobactive contracts due to cease in mid-2020, the Government had an opportunity to explore options for future employment services that considered a range of factors that affect the delivery of effective services, including the changing labour market, advancements in technology, and new thinking on how to help disadvantaged job seekers to find work.

Work on the design of the new model began in January 2018 with the establishment of the independent Employment Services Expert Advisory Panel. Its members represented employers, small business, job seekers, the provider sector and academia. The panel members had a wide range of expertise and differing perspectives critical to informing the design of a new model.

The panel considered a wide range of domestic and international evidence and heard from a broad spectrum of users: employers, providers, community sector organisations, peak industry bodies, training providers, local and state governments, and representatives of diverse communities including migrants, young people, and mature-age workers. The public consultation included:

  • Release of a public discussion paper: In June 2018, the department released a discussion paper inviting comment from the public to inform the deliberations of the panel.

–– Of the 450 submitters, 296 agreed to have their submission published.

–– A summary of responses to the public discussion paper, The Next Generation of Employment Services: Summary of Consultation Responses, is available on our website.

  • Stakeholder consultations: Following release of the discussion paper, the department facilitated conversations with stakeholders across Australia throughout July 2018.

–– More than 540 people attended 23 consultation sessions held in metropolitan and regional centres across Australia.

–– A summary of this feedback, Employment Services 2020: Consultation Report, is available on our website.

  • User-centred design: In collaboration with user-centred design experts ThinkPlace, the department and members of the panel undertook fieldwork and user research with job seekers, employers and employment service providers to test ideas and uncover what they needed from a new model.

–– More than 550 people participated in design research workshops, focus groups or one-on-one interviews throughout the consultation period.

The feedback from this extensive engagement informed the 11 recommendations outlined in the panel’s report to government ‘I Want to Work’, which was publicly released on 14 December 2018.

The Minister and department undertook a further seven targeted consultation sessions with job seekers, peak bodies and providers in December 2018 to January and February 2019 to test the proposed direction for a new model. This feedback informed the design of the new model announced by the Government on 20 March 2019.

Key elements of the new model will be trialled from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2022, before a national rollout. Existing deeds for jobactive and several related programs will be extended until 30 June 2022 to enable employment services to continue while the new employment services model is being trialled.


The new employment services model will transform the way employment services are delivered. Given the scale of change, implementation will be gradual to allow key elements of the model to be tested and evaluated. Improvements will be made progressively through an ongoing co-design process with job seekers, employers, providers and community organisations.

The new model will be trialled in two employment regions: Adelaide South (SA) and Mid North Coast (NSW), from late 2019 to June 2022. Current jobactive contracts will be extended until June 2022 in all other regions while elements of the new model are tested and refined with users

Online Employment Services Trial

The Online Employment Services Trial began on 1 July 2018. Part of the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Strategy, the trial aims to test whether job seekers can take personal responsibility for their job search efforts and find a job using the department’s online services. Findings from the monitoring and evaluation of the trial helped to inform the development of the new employment services model.

Job seekers who are considered job ready and not in need of specialised assistance were randomly selected to participate in the trial. They can opt out of the trial at any time and transfer to face-to-face servicing with a jobactive provider. After six months in the trial, job seekers who remained on income support were referred to a jobactive provider for further assistance.

Early results from analysis of the department’s administrative data indicated that job seekers in the trial were at least as likely to exit from income support or employment services as comparison job seekers receiving standard servicing from a provider. Evaluation research suggested that job seekers’ experience of the trial is generally positive. This included feedback from job seekers that online servicing can be more convenient than face-to-face servicing, provides a greater sense of empowerment and reduces the burden and costs associated with travelling to a provider site.

The trial was originally announced as engaging 10,000 job seekers over two years from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2020. In December 2018, the Government expanded it to involve an additional 25,000 Stream A job seekers and the inclusion of all volunteer job seekers from December 2019. Alongside the extension of the jobactive contract, the trial was extended for a further two years to June 2022. Around 130,000 job seekers are expected to participate over four years, including around 60,000 Stream A job seekers.


As at 30 June 2019:

–– 16,394 job seekers have been referred to the trial.

–– 12,932 job seekers have commenced in the trial.

–– 5,660 job seekers have been exited from the trial and jobactive because of employment, study or other reasons that make them no longer eligible for Newstart or Youth Allowance (Other).


  1. New Business Incentive Scheme