Release type: Speech


Speech - National Transition to Work Conference, Brisbane


The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business


Thank you Anthony, for that warm introduction.

Good morning and welcome to the 2021 National Transition to Work Conference.

In the 1999 film ‘Any Given Sunday’ the Miami Sharks, a once-great American football team, are struggling to make the 2001 AFFA  playoffs.

They are coached by thirty-year veteran Tony D'Amato who is played by Al Pacino.

In perhaps the most important part of the film Al Pacino delivers a motivational speech where, using all sorts of colourful language, he impresses on his team that they will fight for the inches.

He says in either game – life or football – the margin for error is so small. One half a step too late or too early and you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second.

He tells his team they will fight inch by inch, play by play. Until they’re finished.

What might this have to do with you, you might ask?

Well as we secure Australia’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 Recession getting Australians back into jobs is our number one priority.

And the Transition to Work program, in which you all play a part, is where we as a country have got to fight for the inches when it comes to getting Australians into work.

Because getting that job is life changing.

The fact is Transition to Work redirects young Australians from a life constrained by the cycle of welfare dependency and sets them on a course for success.

And we sit at a crossroads the like of which we haven’t seen in this country before.

As the pandemic rages outside our borders, stronger now than it did 12 months ago, and we have no skilled migration lever to pull.

So getting young people into work is fundamental to our future success as a country but it is also critical to supporting business today.  Importantly supporting those young Australians.

We have a once in a century opportunity to work with young Australians and businesses to get as many Australians on the path to success as possible.

And Transition to Work is key to this effort.

So, I am asking you this morning to fight for those inches out there in supporting young Australians. And Government is backing you in to do the work.

With a skills-led recovery at the heart of the 2021-22 budget, we are helping younger Australians kickstart their careers.

We’re investing an additional $481.2 million in youth employment services.

All up almost $1.2 billion has been invested in the Transition to Work program over the forward estimates, allowing it to operate as the Government’s youth specialist employment service for young people most at risk of long-term unemployment.

We are backing it in because it works and it is getting the outcomes we need.

But we have to keep at it. We have to keep fighting for the inches.

Role of businesses/employers in leading Australia’s economic recovery from COVID

We can’t move ahead with a skills-led recovery from the pandemic, without the help of businesses and employers taking giving a young person a shot.

Businesses like Thirkell Consulting Engineers and Building Design in Queensland, which was eligible for a Youth bonus wage subsidy when it hired Megan.

Megan was introduced to Thirkell by a Transition to Work provider in Cairns.

When she first met the provider, Megan had no work experience. She was given the assistance she needed to pick up casual work at McDonald’s, and at the recommendation of her provider, who assessed her skills and career goals, also enrolled in a Bachelor of Business course.

The McDonald’s job, combined with studying something with long-term prospects, greatly improved Megan’s confidence.

Her provider later secured an interview for Megan with Thirkell, where she now works in office administration. 

I’m told her employer very much values Megan’s commitment to her job and studies, praising her as a standout employee.

It all starts with fighting for the inches, or in this country the centimetres (inches sounds better though!).

Because someone fought for the inches, Megan is on the path to success and has a brighter future ahead. And we know that success will echo across generations in her family to come.

To encourage employers to hire more staff like Megan, we are increasing wage subsidies available through Transition to Work and other programs such as jobactive and ParentsNext.

We’ve committed $2.7 billion to boosting apprenticeship commencements, allowing employers to employ new apprentices and trainees.

Our $1billion JobTrainer program will allow for an extra 163,000 low-fee and free training places.

So, Government is backing in younger Australians but training must be up to scratch.

We need your assistance with helping ensure it meets the expectations of industry – as well as the expectations of apprentices, students, and trainees.

This includes ensuring people have the right skills to plug current shortages, and that pursuing a training qualification actually leads to a job.

Government investment in youth services, including Mental health spending for young people

Our investment in youth employment is matched by promising workforce data that shows young Australians are indeed finding work.

Almost 16,000 found employment in April, contributing to the youth unemployment rate dropping 1.1 percentage points to 10.6 per cent.

This is the lowest rate since January 2009, and one percentage point lower than in March 2020, before the pandemic hit.

Departmental evaluations show Transition to Work is well designed to meet the needs of young people, helping participants build their capacity to get and retain a job.

Since it commenced in 2016, more than 149,100 young people have been introduced to the Transition to Work program.

More than 71,300 have been placed in jobs, and more than 45,980 in accredited education and training.

So many lives forever changed by the opportunities generated through this program.


So, I want to leave you with my clear expectation and my hope that you will continue to fight for the inches.

Can I thank you for the good work you have all done to help Australians break through barriers thrown up in front of them.

Barriers some have had for generations in their family.

I hope and pray the conference provides you with new insights to carry out your work.

And a renewed sense of purpose to give you the energy you need, to keep doing what you do.

As a Nation we desperately need you to keep at it and fight, fight for those inches.

Thank you for what you do. We are so pleased by you steeping up to the plate and joining with government.

And I just want you to keep fighting, inch by inch, because young Australians deserve nothing less.