Investing in targeted employment programs
A strong theme identified in this research as well as in RCOA’s research on best practice in employment, What Works, is the need for targeted and collaborative approaches to address the barriers to employment that are faced by refugee and migrant jobseekers. While this report suggests several areas where Jobactive services could be improved, ultimately there is a limit to the ability of a generalist model such as Jobactive to address the distinct needs of refugees and migrants settling in Australia, especially in the absence of policy incentives or a significant investment in additional and targeted resources.
This report therefore also recommends that the Australian Government should consider alternative ways of achieving what should be the substantive outcome of Jobactive: helping refugee and migrant jobseekers into long-term, sustainable and meaningful employment. As Appendix 1 of this report notes, there are a range of existing employment models, programs and initiatives that appear to be more effective in helping refugee and migrant jobseekers succeed in the Australian labour market. Investing in these targeted employment programs is likely to represent a more effective use of government funding.
In other words, if Jobactive services could refer refugee and migrant jobseekers to a specialist employment service—and a portion of the funding to support these clients was diverted from Jobactive to specialist employment program providers— the outcomes may be better for all.
For the jobseeker, there is a greater likelihood that they will get the support they need to find work. For generalist Jobactive providers, they can focus on developing their services for those that they are better able to service and achieving outcomes. For specialist employment services, there is the potential to attract increased resourcing and further develop or sustain their programs.
Investment in targeted employment programs reflects a trend towards a person-centred approach in government-funded services. For example, disability services moved some time ago towards giving the individuals at the centre of services — people with a disability — a choice in who and how they access services. The same shift is evident in the vocational education and training sector, where funding is provided to individuals to access the training they require from a provider of their choice.
Recommendation 3: Invest in targeted employment programs
The Australian Government should review their funding of employment transition programs with a view to increasing investment in targeted employment programs.
Sharing knowledge about what works
To better inform the development of effective and employment transition programs targeting refugee and migrant jobseekers, it is apparent that more work needs to be done to document what works and ensure that knowledge about effective models and approaches are widely shared.
There is an existing body of research on a variety of employment programs, including RCOA’s What Works, evaluation reports of different programs, and academic and other literature identifying barriers to employment. However, there is a need to integrate and update this research, and to develop a platform for ensuring such knowledge is both shared and used to inform government policy.
Recommendation 4: Learn and share knowledge
The Australian Government should invest in research and platforms for sharing knowledge about effective employment programs that result in better outcomes for refugee and migrant jobseekers.