Abbott won the election and Mr Forrest began the review. At the time Mr Forrest’s FMG had a Government funded work ready program called VTEC based in Port Hedland. The model was simple, take local Indigenous people, give them some basic work ready training and place them into entry level jobs across the FMG business. This was a requirement as part of FMG’s Land Use Agreements anyway.
The model was not 100% successful; not everyone that went through the FMG VTEC program ended up with a job. We know that the model did do a lot of good for many Aboriginal people but it also wasn’t a model that would suit every other industry, especially those that don’t have Land Use Agreement obligations.
The Ending Disparity report was tabled and one of the main recommendations made was for the VTEC model to be rolled out across the country. In most cases JSA’s were provided with VTEC contracts. The JSA’s don’t have a good track record in servicing Indigenous or other jobseekers, as was documented in a recent Four Corners episode. Long before the report was tabled, those JSA’s were asked to submit an Expression of Interest to become a VTEC. That might need a ‘please explain?’
In other cases, VTEC contracts have been awarded to organisations that have no history or experience in finding jobs for people let alone even having access to any Indigenous people to fill the jobs. Those particular organisations had to build their VTEC units from scratch and find hundreds of jobs for Indigenous people within an 18-month contract period. I can hardly see how the VTEC model was so revolutionary that it had to be immediately rolled out in such a way.
Recently, the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet identified that many of the VTEC’s were not tracking well and provided a 6 months extension to meet their targets but many of the VTEC’s are still struggling for several reasons:
- The 62,000 job pledges are not real jobs, they are ‘pledges’, there is an enormous difference.
- The Generation One staff are trying to rally up new job ‘pledges’ to pass onto the struggling VTEC’s who don’t have the ability to source their own jobs. Given that there are 5,500 VTEC placements across the country and existing 62,000 job pledges, this might need another ‘please explain?’
- Some of the VTEC’s don’t have access to Indigenous job seekers
- The level of investment being put into the candidates is very low due to the nature of the back-ended contracts. No payments are provided to the VTEC’s until the jobseeker has been in employment for 6 months. VTEC’s must rely on training funding from JSA’s but JSA’s are often reluctant to provide this. Therefore, little to no real training is being provided to the jobseekers to prepare for their jobs.
- The original objectives of Mr Forrest’s VTEC model have been manipulated to minimise the financial risks whilst maximising their likelihood of the incentive payment by some of the VTEC’s. This has resulted in people who were meant to get the jobs (the long term unemployed and disadvantaged), being overlooked for candidates who didn’t need as much training to fill the jobs and who will be more of a certainty for the 6 month incentive payments.
We should also be asking Generation One what the $45 million is being spent on. Their website does not disclose who is on their board of directors and there is no public annual reporting. Who has oversight of this organisation and the tax payers’ millions? Maybe instead of a ‘movement’ we should ask why those funds are not being directed to real programs and Indigenous organisations that have the proven outcomes. Some might say I have sour grapes about not being given a VTEC contract; of course I’m disappointed about that, especially when I have over 4,000 Indigenous people on my books that are waiting for jobs. However my main concern is the employment outcomes for Indigenous people.
I personally admire Mr Forrest greatly for his entrepreneurial spirit, his advocacy about Indigenous issues and I genuinely believe he is legitimate in his concerns in the Indigenous space. FMG is a company that has a strong track record of engaging with Indigenous businesses in a genuine way. I disclose Ochre has a contract with FMG for labour hire. However, I don’t think that should restrict me discussing the continued manipulation of Indigenous employment programs that tax payers are paying for and are expecting results from. When the results aren’t delivered the Indigenous people are blamed for their laziness and then put on basic cards…that’s a whole different article.