The Prime Minister has again been advised by his academic policy gurus. It is proposed that anyone under 25 who cannot get a job have to either undertake training or education to year 12 to get government money for food, rent and clothing. Families keeping young people without jobs will be financially penalised too if their children do not undertake education or training.

Whether young people have a Year 12 education or not is not the key determinant as to why they have jobs. It is the state of the regional or urban economy they are trapped in by the messily dole that affords them little opportunity for independence or to afford to own, let alone run, a car so they can get to work or go to places where there is work.

In areas outside metropolitan centres this is a real issue for young Australians. Fishing you learn at sea and from other skippers for three years and if you are good enough you do courses required to become a skipper. What training do you send these young people to between jobs while they accumulate their sea time as deckhands?

Similarly for farm hands, apprentice tradesman and women as employment and therefore training have become less reliable they are reliant on the dole more frequently. So is it the humiliation of “back to High School” for these people. Won’t this make them less available for that contract job, apprenticeship or on the job training they were hanging out for? Does this mean that young people have to hitchhike to regional centres for “Mickey Mouse” training and education? Qualifications do not make jobs.

In the retail sector qualifications are rarely required but there are good opportunities to move from selling on the shop floor to more senior management positions — indeed many of the best known business people have worked their way up this way. The same for many factory jobs. There are a number of illiterate millionaires and many more that do not have Year 12.

To force young people into training or education is cruel and unproductive, especially in the bush. It is a very brutal way of reducing the youth unemployment statistics.

Formal education and training is not always relevant to employment while society relies on a large percentage of its workforce to empty the garbage, dig drains and ditches, to pick fruit, shear sheep, mend fences, build roads, spray the weeds and work as labourers in construction. When young people are in these jobs there are opportunities to get “tickets” — relevant qualifications to drive various kinds of machinery, to erect scaffold, licences to drive trucks etc. to the job. Not guessing what will work and “training” in poverty.

Employment in these sectors has become increasingly erratic, especially where the government has set out — on similar academic advice — to reform the farming and fishing sectors and the privatisation of government sector employment that was once the foundation of the apprenticeship system.

To financially penalise people for “sticking to their guns” and hanging out to complete their apprenticeship, to get that job with a contract team, to get into the retail sector where they can keep a job long enough to get into management is cruel and based on profound ignorance.

Young people need more money so they can be economically independent afford to rent a home and run a car so they move around to take advantage of employment opportunities and do physical work we all need done while they are young, fit and mobile.

Year 12 qualifications that are not used for entry to university are next to useless for most practical jobs. Young people deserve to have good financial support and not be treated as inconvenient statistics to be slandered, humiliated and financially penalised at will by politicians and bureaucrats who get their cheques from the same “public boss”.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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