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Assessing Australia’s labour force

Structural adjustment

Structural change is an ongoing feature of the Australian economy as it constantly transitions to new markets, technologies and forms of work. In response to those challenges and new opportunities, the department has developed a number of initiatives to support workers through the transition process.

Employment Facilitators are an essential component of the department’s assistance to job seekers, including retrenched workers. They help to facilitate government initiatives such as the recently commenced Regional Employment Trials (RET) and the Stronger Transitions program. In 2018–19 there were 14 Employment Facilitators providing support across 12 regions: Geelong (Vic), Gippsland (Vic), North Queensland, North/North-West Tasmania, Adelaide (SA), Murraylands and Riverlands (SA), Yorke and Mid North (SA), North-West/West Melbourne (Vic), Mandurah (WA), Far South Coast (NSW), Northern Inland (NSW) and Wide Bay Burnett (Qld).

On 1 July 2018, the department implemented the Stronger Transitions package to assist workers who are being retrenched by partnering with companies to transition workers into new jobs. As part of Stronger Transitions, workers are also able to access intensive case management employment support through jobactive, assistance to relocate for work, and support to explore running their own business. The Stronger Transitions package provides support in five regions: Adelaide, Mandurah, North Queensland, North/North-West Tasmania and North-West/West Melbourne.

The department has engaged the services of Wallis Consulting Group, in collaboration with ACIL Allen Consulting, to evaluate the impact of pre-retrenchment support through collaboration agreements the department has with retrenching employers under the Stronger Transitions package. Findings from this evaluation will help to inform the department as to the best approach to engaging and providing transition support to retrenched employees.

The department also worked closely with car manufacturing companies, their workers and the South Australian and Victorian governments to support workers affected by the transition of the car manufacturing industry. The Automotive Industry Structural Adjustment Programme was extended to 30 June 2019 to continue providing support to workers. A report will be published to highlight best practice lessons learned from the transition process.

On 1 January 2019, the department launched the Redundancy Information Statement, a resource for employers to provide to their retrenched workers. The Redundancy Information Statement helps workers to understand their individual rights and entitlements, act quickly to look for a new job and plan how best to use their finances.

In 2019, the department began intensive employment assistance for workers and their partners affected by retrenchments from ASC Shipbuilding Pty Ltd in Adelaide. This includes pre-retrenchment career advice training, labour market information and employment services to help workers transition to new jobs.

Regional employment

Labour market conditions vary considerably between regions of Australia, with some areas performing strongly while others face significant challenges. These differences can be attributed to a range of factors, including a region’s industry base, access to and participation in higher education, transport networks and infrastructure, degree of natural amenity, population size and growth, access to more dynamic labour markets, and labour force skill level. It is more difficult to achieve employment outcomes in regions where there is a lack of industry diversity and economic growth.

Place-based approaches can be used to assist disadvantaged regions to implement locally designed solutions that help unemployed people to prepare for and find work.

Regional Employment Trials program

The RET program is a place-based solution that the department is implementing in disadvantaged communities to test some of these approaches. The department is also working across government to collaboratively support regional Australia through place-based and local economic development programs. RET is a 21-month targeted grant program designed to support local solutions that will assist unemployed people in regional areas. It aims to assist communities to deliver tailored local employment solutions. The program includes the engagement of Employment Facilitators in each trial region to work with stakeholders and help them develop and implement the local employment initiatives.

RET is being delivered in partnership with AusIndustry, which manages the grant component. RET has an innovative two-stage application process, intended to help direct funding to regional needs. Project proposals are given to the local Regional Development Australia committee for initial consideration. From there, proposals can then be submitted to the Commonwealth for assessment and approval. Using Employment Facilitators to support regional stakeholders through this assessment process has been a key priority during the program’s delivery.

From the program’s start date on 1 October 2018, to 30 June 2019, 35 projects had grant agreements executed. These projects seek to assist a broad range of unemployed people. They include:

  • two 12-week programs to match participants to available jobs in the Murraylands and Riverland region of South Australia
  • an employer-led culturally customised employment program to support vulnerable unemployed refugees and migrants in the Northern Inland region of New South Wales
  • a program providing entry-level welding experience and small tools capability, which are in high demand in North-West Tasmania (see the Welding and Small Tool Training Pilot Case Study below)
  • pre-employment training, driver training and transport to work for young people in Burnie, Tasmania
  • self-employment and business skills training in a culturally sensitive environment for unemployed people with low literacy and numeracy skills in the Gippsland region of Victoria
  • support and education to build confidence, address worries and challenges and improve motivation to be successful in managing the transition to becoming a working parent in the Peel region of Western Australia.

The department has engaged the Social Research Centre to evaluate the program. The evaluation will examine the effectiveness, efficiency and replicability of this region-based approach to delivering employment projects. The findings will help to inform the department’s approach to solving regional employment challenges in the future.

Welding and Small Tool Training Pilot Program

Photo of participants in the Welding and Small Tool Training Pilot Program studying welding theory.
Photo: Participants in the Welding and Small Tool Training Pilot Program studying welding theory.

The Welding and Small Tool Training Pilot Program, funded through the Regional Employment Trials program, ran over 15 days in April and May 2019 at the South Burnie training facility of the Tasmanian Minerals and Energy Council (TMEC). It equipped a group of 10 job seekers with entry-level welding experience and small tools capability, which are in high demand among manufacturing firms across north-west Tasmania.

During the project, participants undertook ‘insight tours‘ of three local manufacturing businesses to observe how their acquired skills are applied in workplaces and to meet with local employers interested in recruiting skilled staff. The project used the TMEC facility’s recently installed specialist welding training equipment, consisting of five Soldamatic Virtual Lab/Augmented Reality welding stations and three Lincoln Electric Real Weld stations.

Those who completed the course received accredited training and intensive one-on-one assistance and were offered the opportunity for certification in core welding skills to international standards. All participants received a certificate of attainment from TMEC outlining the skills and capability they had achieved. Nine participants completed certification in core welding skills to international standard ISO 9606. Eight went on to work experience with employers in manufacturing. Two participants have achieved four-week full outcome payments.

TMEC has indicated its strong satisfaction with the outcome of the project and has indicated its interest in working on subsequent initiatives.

International engagement

In 2018–19, the department continued to participate in international forums and bilateral exchanges in accordance with its International Engagement Strategy 2016–2019. This enables the department to:

  • influence and evaluate international policy approaches relevant to the portfolio
  • increase awareness of and cooperation on national and Indo-Pacific interests
  • promote an Australian Government view internationally while meeting Australia’s international obligations
  • identify and share international best practice policies and ideas across the department to inform policy and service delivery.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Australia is a member of the Organisation for Economic-Co-operation and Development (OECD). The department, represented by a Minister-Counsellor (Employment), uses its strong relationship with the OECD to enhance its capacity to develop employment and training, workforce participation, small business and deregulation policies and programs.

In 2018–19, the department engaged with the OECD on a range of international and domestic policy priorities such as the future of work, labour market regulation, skills development, boosting labour market participation, and productivity.

The department is currently participating in the OECD’s Review of Adult Learning for the Future project. As part of this project, the OECD has produced the Boosting Participation in Adult Learning in Australia report, which compares the relative ability of different financial levers to improve participation in adult learning, detailing the potential advantages and disadvantages of international implementation models.

Engagement with the United Nations

The department works with other Australian Government agencies to ensure Australia meets its international reporting obligations to the United Nations. The department supports Australian representatives to United Nations bodies on matters that are relevant to our portfolio responsibilities.

International delegations

Hosting international delegations enables the department to undertake policy dialogues with other countries. We receive visit requests from both government and non-government organisations with an interest in Australia’s employment services, training policies and approaches to small business and deregulation.

In 2018–19, the department hosted several delegations, including from Canada, Singapore and Chile. These visits also provided opportunities to learn how other countries have addressed policy challenges.

The Group of Twenty (G20)

The G20 is the leading forum for international economic cooperation and an important mechanism for global governance. The department represents Australia in the G20 Employment Working Group, which discusses approaches to global employment opportunities and challenges. Employment Working Group officials exchange information about strategies and best practice in shared policy interests such as demographic change, structural adjustment, youth unemployment and gender equality, including women’s workforce participation. The department continued to promote Australia’s commitments in these and other policy areas following the G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting and the first joint meeting with Education Ministers held in Argentina in September 2018, including through the development of Australia’s annual G20 Employment Plan.

G20 Employment Working Group officials met on a number of occasions in the first half of 2019 to work towards policy recommendations on employment, including ensuring societies are prepared for the opportunities and challenges arising from demographic change and ageing populations, and identifying further strategies to advance gender equality and women’s workforce participation. This work was performed in preparation for the annual G20 Leaders’ Summit (held on 28–29 June 2019 in Osaka, Japan) and Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting (to be held on 1–2 September 2019 in Matsuyama, Japan).

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a regional forum of 21 economies, supported by a secretariat and thematic working groups and committees.

In 2018–19, the department continued its contribution to the APEC Human Resources Development Working Group agenda and APEC priorities for 2019, which include advancing women’s economic empowerment. The department is working with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other agencies on a regional project to explore opportunities for integrating women in the digital economy. In May 2019, the department hosted the APEC Labour Mobility Statistics Forum in Chile to discuss ways of improving regional cooperation on collecting and reporting labour mobility data and labour market information in the Asia-Pacific region.

APEC Labour Mobility Statistics Forum

Photo of Government officials at the APEC Labour Mobility Statistics Forum.
Government officials at the APEC Labour Mobility Statistics Forum.

The department hosted the APEC Labour Mobility Statistics Forum on 2–3 May in Vina del Mar, Chile. The forum brought together senior government officials from APEC national statistical offices and employment, education and migration ministries to discuss strategies for improving the production and dissemination of labour mobility statistics in the Asia-Pacific region. The forum was also attended by academics, professionals from the private sector, and representatives of international organisations such as the International Labour Organization, the International Organization for Migration, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Recognising growing demand for data, delegates made a number of recommendations, including the formation of a regional forum on labour mobility statistics to facilitate ongoing dialogue between data producers and users.

Labour mobility between borders can drive economic integration, generate inclusive growth and contribute to human capital development. A key challenge to linking workers with employers across borders in the APEC region is the lack of complete, comparable or widely available data about labour mobility and labour markets.

To make comparable data more available and accessible, the department, in collaboration with APEC counterparts and international organisations, is undertaking a project to promote the development of regional principles and best practices to collect and share labour market and mobility data.