It is a pleasure to be here today and to see for the first time in full the leadership team that is going to drive jobactive.
From where I stand, it is a very encouraging sight.
I know there is great deal of experience, commitment and determination in this room to help both job seekers and employers.
I would like to start by offering you my congratulations on your success in the recent tender.
Pulling together a tender is no easy task and it is to your credit that you have been able to convince those hard-heads in the Department of Employment of the merits of your case.
The Department received tenders from 184 organisations which equated to just over 1400 individual bids.
That is a lot of competition!
But only one third of the organisations that tendered actually made it through the process.
I know the Department took great pains to select only the very best organisations to deliver services to job seekers and employers around the country.
So congratulations on being chosen - and trusted - to deliver this very important work into the future.
In terms of the overall tender results - there remains a good mix of both large and small - as well as for profit and not for profit organisations - working in the sector.
While there has been a reduction in the number of organisations being offered contracts - the overall shape of the sector remains familiar.
Of those organisations selected for jobactive -
61 per cent are not for profit and 39 per cent for profit - compared to 65 and 35 percent respectively now.
It has been very pleasing to see the way large and small organisations have joined forces in certain employment regions to deliver services.
This is one of things that the Government wanted to see.
As you know, we wanted to put the sector onto a more competitive and commercial basis - hence the larger employment regions.
But in doing so - we didn’t want to lose the special skills that many smaller providers have offered in the past.
I am pleased to see a number of new partnerships and sub-contracting arrangements emerge from this tender.
And I am greatly encouraged by the fact that many high performing smaller organisations have seen an increase in their business.
Regardless of whether you were large or small – for profit or not for profit – it was the combination of your track record, your organisational capabilities and your ability set out a clear plan for the future – that got you over the line.
So thank you for the effort you put into your tender and congratulations on being selected to be part of the future of employment services in this country.
Countdown to 1 July 2015
Now that the anticipation and excitement around the tender is behind us, it is time to turn our minds to the challenges and opportunities ahead.
It is only 64 days to go until the start of jobactive – and just four days until the Work for the Dole Coordinators kick-off.
So – not long at all!
Some of you have heard me say this before – but I want to say it again – I think your work is incredibly important.
In my book, there are very few things as important as helping people into work.
When people are in work they are better off financially, physically and emotionally.
Work helps to give our lives purpose and structure and can be a source of friendship and emotional support.
It has been my pleasure over the past 18 months to meet a number of job seekers who have told me how their lives have been changed for the better with your help.
I keep these stories in the front of my mind because they motivate me in my work – as I am sure they do in yours.
This morning I would just like to briefly outline my priorities for the initial phase of jobactive.
As the Prime Minister said when launching jobactive last month – “it’s not just a new name – it is a new approach.”
Ladies and gentlemen, over the course of last eighteen months there has been a great deal of discussion about the need for reform in employment services.
One of the points of consensus was around the need to restore the focus on employers.
A stronger focus on employers is fundamental to the design of the new jobactive model.
As you well know - the Government will be paying you for results – and those results can only be achieved if you are meeting the needs of employers by delivering quality candidates and professional support services.
As some of you would have heard me say before - when I am asked what my vision for employment services is I say it is simple.
It is to make employment services the first port of call for more employers looking to hire staff so as to generate more opportunities for job seekers.
But we are not there yet – there is some work to do.
The Department has recently conducted market research with employers to inform our communication and marketing strategy for jobactive.
The research confirms that very few employers are aware of your services.
This is a great shame,because if they don’t know who you are then they are hardly likely to recruit from your pool.
But on a positive note - once it was explained to them – they were very open to using your services.
They were interested in a service that reduces the time, effort and cost involved in finding good staff.
Now, those of you who have been around for a while will tell me you know this and that employers are at the heart of your service model.
But I am going to throw a challenge out to you all today.
Because as I get around the country, I have heard a repeated refrain that suggest we need to look at this issue with fresh eyes.
Employers are telling me time and time again that they are frustrated by the quality of the candidates they are receiving.
Now I know that not all job seekers are the same – and that some are much more motivated and easier to assist than others.
But the frequency with which this issue is raised by employers with me is telling.
I think this issue boils down to how we are communicating and reinforcing employer expectations to job seekers.
Some job seekers don’t seem to be able to hear what the employers are saying and apply it to themselves.
But this is where a skilled employment services consultant can help job seekers to make that mental shift and thereby improve their job prospects.
So over the course of the next days – as you listen to Jenny Lambert from ACCI and other speakers – I encourage you to ask yourself whether you have got this right yet in your organisation.
For me, this is the starting point to success in the new model.
Remember - the thing employers want the most is for you to bring them the best fit for their organisation.
To succeed in the new model, we need to be working with employers on their terms not just ours.
Young job seekers
On a related front, another priority for the Government is improving the work readiness of young job seekers.
As you would know, youth unemployment remains much higher than the general unemployment rate.
While the causes of youth unemployment are many and complex, I do feel there is scope to do more to help young job seekers understand what it takes to find and a keep a job.
Last year, the department published the results of a survey of over 3000 employers on what they thought young people could do to improve their chances of getting a job.
The number one thing that most employers said would help is if the young person improved their attitude to work.
Employers said young people needed to be more willing to work and that they should be more prepared to learn and take direction.
Employers also commented on the clothing worn by young people and the importance of physical presentation at interviews.
Clearly – something is not right if these very basic needs of employers are not being met by the candidates coming forward.
A similar theme emerged in some other research that the Department did on the Work for the Dole pilots.
The host organisations involved also commented on the presentation and attitude of some young job seekers as being a source of frustration for them.
I raise these points not to trivialise or dismiss the barriers many young people face - many young people do it tough and have not had exposure to positive work behaviours or role models.
Instead, I raise these points because the comments are coming directly from employers themselves.
To reinforce my earlier point - if we are serious about better meeting the needs of employers so as to help more job seekers – then we need to working with employers on their terms and on their priorities.
And very clearly one of their priorities is to have more suitable candidates arrive at their door.
And you – as part of jobactive – are the ones on the ground who can do this.
I was delighted to hear of the ideas that some of you had in your tenders to respond to these sorts of issues - such as intensive job clubs for young people and single point of contacts for employers.
I support these endeavours and want to encourage you all to think about how you can better service young job seekers to improve their work readiness.
Work for the Dole
One of my other priorities for the year ahead is the
national roll-out of the new Work for the Dole programme.
Work for the Dole is not an end in itself but just one part of a suite of services designed to help people improve their chances of finding and keeping a job.
It is designed to help people remain active and engaged while looking for work and allow them to give something back to the community that is supporting them.
Over the past ten months, I have been watching the progress of the Work for the Dole pilots very carefully.
I am pleased to see that we have been able to achieve a good mix of places for job seekers in a range of settings and that take-up is broadly on track.
However, one of the lessons from the pilot – and something I want to stress with you – is that you need to be on the front foot from day one with your management of Work for the Dole.
Let me tell you those providers that started strongly have sustained their high performance over the course of the pilot.
Given the importance of Work for the Dole in the new star ratings system I urge all of you to make sure that your teams are ready to go on this front from day one.
The Government expects you to hit the ground running and to work pro-actively with your local Work for the Dole Coordinators to match job seekers to places.
Ladies and gentlemen – employment services has had its critics over the past year – but these critics have conveniently overlooked your many successes in helping job seekers in to work and a better life.
Sally Sinclair said something recently that struck a chord with me - and it is a sentiment that I have heard from David Thompson and many of you too.
Speaking of employment service Sally said - "It is a tough, difficult sector and the people who work in it deserve our praise."
I couldn’t agree more.
The organisations you represent have a great many strengths to build on.
I would like to thank you and your teams of your efforts to date and wish you all the very best as we move towards the start of jobactive.
Before I close, I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of my department on the recent tender and their work to ensure that everything is on course for
1 July 2015.
Many staff have worked long hours - and forfeited their break over summer - to ensure that all 1400 bids were treated fairly and equally.
And great care has been taken to ensure the transition to the new model is as smooth as possible for you, your job seekers and employers.
I would like to thank Martin Hehir and the Group Managers - Anthony, Marsha, Stephen, Moya and Margaret - plus the State Office Managers – for the work they and their teams have done to bring us to this point.
Finally, I would like to let you know that my door is always open to you all and that I would welcome your feedback on how things are going out there in coming months.
Please feel free to drop me a line to let me know how you are going.
Thank you all for your time this morning and I look forward to talking with you further over morning tea.