In Training by Clyde Mooney

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The National AHA executive has announced a big expansion to its work with the Federal Government’s PaTH program, aiming to help 10,000 young unemployed get a start in the workplace.

In 2016 the eight AHA presidents met with Employment Minister Michaelia Cash and determined that the industry could commit to creating 5,000 temporary intern positions over the course of four years, in association with the Commonwealth’s Youth Jobs PaTH (Prepare-Trial-Hire) program.

Following successes in the uptake of PaTH, Government asked the AHA if it could revise its position, resulting in yesterday’s announcement to double the number of internships to 10,000.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was in Western Australia, and attended a press conference with AHA(WA) CEO Bradley Woods, who is also National Chair of the Tourism Travel Hospitality Industry Reference Committee (TTHIRC).

Member for Swan Steve Irons, Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash, AHA(WA) CEO Brad Woods, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

“Getting a start in the world of employment is always hard, but PaTH offers a much-needed boost, which is just what so many young people want and need,” stated Woods. “Financial support for both young people and business provides a platform for positive long-term employment outcomes.”

But aspects of the scheme have drawn criticism by the ACTU, which brands it glorified slave labour.

“This program is gifting young people to businesses, destroying jobs and not giving a single young person a useful skill or recognised qualification,” ACTU secretary Sally McManus told New Daily.

The Union appears out-of-step with the realities of the hospitality industry, and potentially even the realities of employing new workers in general, suggesting a supposed flood of cheap interns is a boon for the sector. It likens Government funding to support the AHA’s pledge to a “$10-million handout” to the industry and taxpayers’ money being used to “eliminate 10,000 proper paying jobs”.

These funds come in the form of a $1,000 payment to employers for taking on an intern for the four-week program, and a subsequent wage subsidy from $6.5-10,000 if the intern goes on to full-time employment.

To be eligible to join the program, the person must be aged 18-25 and have been unemployed for at least six months. Entrants receive an additional $200 per fortnight to their Newstart allowance, which is up to $535.60 per fortnight.

In complete contrast to a skilled-up hospitality job-seeker, they will invariably have no RSA or RSG certification, OH&S knowledge or workplace experience, or useful skills such as food or beverage handling.

“The easiest thing for employers is to hire someone who already has these hospitality skills – kitchen or bar,” explains AHA CEO Stephen Ferguson.

“But Government is saying if we don’t help these kids that don’t have these skills they run the risk of never entering the workforce in a meaningful way, so it is incumbent on all of us to try and help these young kids along.”

Beyond the fact that the internships are quite short-term, suggestion that the 10,000 positions will be taking jobs from professional workers in an industry employing 250,000 is tantamount to the ACTU “playing games” says Ferguson.

“When you take on someone as work experience or an intern you can’t just set them on the floor and let them go. You need to take someone out of their current duties to supervise them and bring them up to speed.

“You’re not going to grow a business on the back of interns as a labour force.”

The AHA will support the PaTH program several ways:

  • directly promoting opportunities to employers
  • facilitating and delivering employability skills training
  • collaborating with other employability skills training providers, job active providers and the Department of Employment

“By providing incentives and support to both the job seeker and employer, this program can help Australia overcome some of the skills shortages we are experiencing, including chef and waiter occupations,” says Ferguson.