Jobs Jolt will get more New Zealanders into work
The government today unveiled a $104.5 million jobs package to tackle skill shortages and get more New Zealanders into work.
The ‘Jobs Jolt’ initiatives will help people get off benefits and into employment, and also address the shortage of skilled labour.
Ten specific initiatives will help employers facing skill shortages, the long term unemployed, people with disabilities, long term sickness and invalid beneficiaries, mature job seekers, youth, and people who have been made redundant. Changes will also be made to the operation of some benefits to ensure beneficiaries capable of work are active in their search for employment.
The Jobs Jolt initiatives will assist 22,000 people into paid employment over the next three years. Employment growth has averaged 44,000 jobs a year since the Labour-led government has been in office. Changes to the operation of the benefit system will see a further group of beneficiaries given more active assistance and may see an even greater number finding paid work.
Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey said Jobs Jolt recognises that with low unemployment and labour shortages, the New Zealand economy needs as many working age people as possible to be active in the labour market.
“Given economic and employment growth, we have an opportunity now to implement new initiatives which will help to meet industry needs for labour and support into work more of those presently unemployed.
“Assuming robust economic growth, the Jobs Jolt initiatives should make a significant contribution to employment growth and skill shortages over the next three years.
“At the same time we can consolidate changes in how we work with people on benefit in order to improve their chances of moving into employment in the future.
“Jobs Jolt acknowledges that peoples’ lives are best improved through work and community participation.
“Most ($91 million) of the expenditure on the Jobs Jolt package is expected to be recovered from what we would otherwise have had to pay out in benefits. This is an important principle and a good example of social development investment in action,” Steve Maharey said.
Steve Maharey said further initiatives to assist job seekers into paid employment are also under development. This includes a package targeting South Auckland Pacific job seekers to be announced on Friday by Associate Social Development and Employment Minister Taito Phillip Field.
Supporting Sole Parents into Work
Sole parents will receive extra help to enter and remain in the work force with regional employment programmes that recognise family commitments.
This initiative builds on the Enhanced Case Management approach by helping sole parents with parenting and childcare issues while maintaining their motivation to become independent.
The programme will include piloting In Work Support-type services that will involve liaison between clients, their case managers and employers to resolve potential problems that may arise from moving into work.
5,000 sole parent clients will be eligible for this assistance over the next three financial years.
Clear and Strong Expectations
People receiving the Unemployment Benefit have clear obligations under social security legislation to be available for work and to take reasonable steps to find employment. This initiative has three components that reinforce these requirements.
The initiative clarifies the situation for clients who lose potential employment due to a positive drug test. Clients in this position may be required to participate in a drug and alcohol education programme or complete another job seeker development activity.
It also seeks to more consistently apply the existing policy for clients who choose to relocate to remote areas where there are limited employment opportunities. Clients may be breaching their obligations with such a move and may find themselves work tested and their eligibility for a benefit affected.
In addition, it will streamline and automate Work and Income operational systems that are used to contact and potentially sanction clients who breach work test obligations.
Cyber Communities – Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
Employment opportunities in the ICT industry will be developed and promoted to long term unemployed clients in three communities.
The Department of Labour’s Community Employment Group (CEG) will co-ordinate the programme which accelerates the whole of government Connecting Communities strategy. That strategy aims to increase communities ability to access, participate in and efficiently use ICT. The programme will provide a range of training, work experience and employment opportunities in three communities for long term unemployed people interested in ICT. ICT support coordinators will be appointed to operate the programme at a local level and ensure training is linked in with relevant ICT training institutions. A National Cyber Coordinator will be appointed to oversee: The development of training for technology planners working with community groups and communities The evaluation of the programme and training The development of networks between the communities involved with the programme.
The initiative will work on the principles of partnership and innovation set out in the Connecting Communities strategy and will build relationships with a wide range of training and ICT providers. It will also draw on the results and experiences of CEG-funded training and employment groups, and of similar initiatives overseas.
The three year initiative will provide assistance to 140 long term unemployed clients.
One-on-one employment coaching will be offered to specific groups of job seekers to address their employment barriers, increase their value to employers and improve their chances of moving into sustainable and higher quality employment.
This initiative complements both existing case management services and the Enhanced Case Management approach. It will target a range of Work and Income clients including older job seekers, people with disabilities, those who have been made redundant and others for whom group programmes may be unsuitable.
Work and Income will contract with specialist providers who will conduct assessments with clients to assess their needs and work potential, and help them to set suitable work goals. Clients will receive follow-up help with motivation, job seeking skills and job applications. Once in work, clients will receive up to six months of additional support.
Employment coaching will be offered primarily to skilled and work ready clients for whom other interventions have proven unsuccessful, and will target 4,000 job seekers over the next three financial years.
Extra Help for Unemployed 8 Years Plus
Employment specialists will be contracted to work with long-term unemployed clients who have been out of the workforce for eight years or longer.
This initiative will see specialised one-on-one assistance for very long term unemployed clients to identify and address their specific employment barriers.
It also aims to develop a better understanding of the reasons behind long-term unemployment.
This programme will enhance the work of case managers by providing access to extra skills and resources to successfully tackle the difficult issues that very long term unemployed clients often face.
The initiative will assist approximately 4,200 people over the next three financial years. It will target all clients who have been on Unemployment Benefit for eight years or more, as well as those moving into this bracket over the timeframe of the initiative.
Job Partnerships with Industry
Partnerships between Work and Income and New Zealand industry will be strengthened through this initiative.
Funding will allow for national and regional co-ordination to improve responsiveness to genuine skill and labour shortages throughout the country.
A National Co-ordinator will oversee the immediate development of industry partnerships, and help ensure job seekers secure sustainable employment. Programmes will focus on training targeted to meet industry identified skill and labour shortages, and may include on-the-job training, work experience or pre-employment training.
This partnership will provide industry training help to 500 job seekers at risk of long term unemployment in 2003/04, rising to 1,000 each year for the following two financial years.
This initiative supports and extends existing employment industry partnerships and complements the wage subsidy programme.
Mayors’ Taskforce – Flexible Employment Fund
A discretionary fund to assist young people through the transition from school to work will be established as part of the Government’s commitment to the Mayors’ Taskforce for Jobs.
The fund will be used for one-year initiatives to help meet the Taskforce target of ensuring all 15-19 year olds enter appropriate education, training or work when they leave school.
The programme provides an opportunity for strong linkages between central and local government, enabling joint contributions to partnership initiatives that benefit local young people and their communities.
The package of $1.5m over three years supports the Youth Transitions Strategy and replaces the Mayors’ Taskforce allocation in the Transition to Work Contestable Fund, which ended in June this year.
Remote Employment Services
Employers and job seekers in isolated rural areas will receive extra help with the establishment of a new remote employment service.
This initiative is designed to increase face-to-face employment services in areas where Work and Income has a limited presence, while developing untapped job opportunities in remote areas. It builds on a Work and Income initiative already successfully trialled in the Nelson region.
This initiative will operate by providing a more intensive and directed service than is usually able to be provided. Work and Income will assess the needs of local industries and employers and ensure they have information on wage subsidies and other assistance. Work Brokers will then co-ordinate relevant training for clients and, once clients are in work, provide follow-up assistance such as job subsidies, in-work support and ongoing training as required.
The initiative will provide funding of $120,000 for each of eight services in remote areas.
Active Case Management for Older Workers
Unemployed clients over the age of 45 years and specifically those aged over 55 years will receive more active case management to help them take advantage of growing employment opportunities.
As labour market opportunities expand and the population ages it is crucial that as many New Zealanders as possible are engaged in the workforce. To meet the growing demand for skilled workers, the work test exemption currently available to people aged 55-59 years on Unemployment Benefit will be removed. This move links to the Positive Ageing Strategy goal to eliminate ageism in employment.
This initiative will also provide greater support to older job seekers by reducing case management ratios to one case manager per 160-170 older job seekers. Clients will receive more active and job-focussed assistance, including training in workplace skills such as computer literacy.
Older job seekers will be helped to overcome their personal barriers to employment. They may also be referred to specialised providers with expertise in assisting older clients. Work may also be undertaken with employers to promote the benefits of hiring older job seekers.
This initiative will provide assistance to approximately 6,640 clients each year and will require an amendment to the Social Security (Exemptions under Section 105) Regulations 1998.