BY PRANJALI SEHGAL and LAURA PLACELLA
More than 50,000 Victorians have signed up to the $500 million Working for Victoria initiative since the start of April, but the Victorian Government has confirmed only 5.5 per cent of them at most have found work via the initiative.
The government announced the scheme last month to assist “jobseekers find work” and “employers to find experienced and screened people ready to work”.
The Department of Premier and Cabinet struck agreements with 28 Victorian municipalities this week to support people into jobs that include “land and asset management, community outreach, hardship relief delivery and crisis coordination”.
The initiative also grants access to free short online training units, and in some cases even free TAFE courses, to help jobseekers update their skills.
“Any jobseekers who are legally allowed to work in Australia are eligible [for Working for Victoria], including workers who have recently lost their job or casuals who no longer have shifts,” a department spokesperson said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last week “people don't want to be on JobKeeper and JobSeeker”.
“They want to be in a job that's paying them,” he said.
The department has confirmed more than 2,750 Victorians, who were unemployed or experienced a significant reduction in income, now have work because of the initiative.
However, not everyone is satisfied with that figure.
Melbourne-based factory worker Lucy Victoria White registered soon after the initiative was announced, but has not been connected with any employment opportunities.
“I'm not able to make rent with no job. My earnings covered rent last month but this month coming is going to be quite difficult,” Ms White said.
She is ineligible for JobKeeper - a fortnightly payment of $1,500 before tax - because she had to quit her job before the $130 billion JobKeeper package was introduced.
“I had to leave my casual job of two years because they couldn’t offer me a minimum of 15 hours at the time, which wasn’t an issue before coronavirus.”
Recent Monash University graduate Rachael Bullen also quit her casual job, as the event company she worked for could no longer operate due to COVID-19.
She registered for the initiative, downloaded the Sidekicker app and found “there were hardly any jobs being posted on it”.
“There were barely any jobs across the fields I had chosen, which were retail, hospitality, care work and community service work,” Ms Bullen said.
She is not eligible for JobKeeper and is worried about getting a job after the virus subsides.
“It’ll be difficult to secure a job after this, everyone will be looking and not many places will be hiring.”
“I feel sorry for international students the most. I feel they should be supported more financially. They’re members of our community and they contribute so much financially as well.”
Former consultant at Monash Health Family Violence Project Cathy Oddie said the initiative gave her hope, but after registering from Ballarat, she did not get any opportunities within her region.
“Their default search setting is 250 kilometres and the only things that got sent through were either in Melbourne or South East Victoria,” Ms Oddie said.
“I [moved] to Ballarat with a job lined up but due to the virus it wasn’t available anymore, so I'm currently working on my father’s farm until I can secure work.”
“I respect our Premier and what the Labor Party has done but they need to not be metropolitan-centric.”
However, Working for Victoria includes a $50 million Agriculture Workforce Plan hoping to support businesses in rural and regional Victoria meet labour and operational needs.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that 127,100 Victorians lost their jobs in April and the unemployment rate jumped from 5.2 per cent to 6 per cent.