Prime Minister Scott Morrison will target youth unemployment in a $58 million plan to encourage students to enter vocational training with the help of scholarships and links to employers.
Mr Morrison will hold out the promise of “quality careers” for young Australians by announcing 10 training hubs in areas with the highest youth unemployment, including Shepparton in Victoria and Gosford and Grafton in NSW.
The government announced the concept in the budget but has waited until the election campaign to name the locations, which include safe electorates as well as some of the marginal seats the Coalition must win to stay in power.
While the government is campaigning on job creation and economic growth, the nation’s youth unemployment rate is twice the overall unemployment rate at 11.5 per cent.
The rate has fallen from a peak of 14.1 per cent in November 2014 but remains very high in some regions, including 24.3 per cent in Grafton.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence, a community organisation, named 20 youth unemployment “hotspots” in a report last month and urged more action by government.
“The conclusion is that the prosperity dividend from 28 years of continuous economic growth is deeply uneven, and many young people are locked out,” it said.
Mr Morrison will outline the policy on Sunday with a promise to make sure young Australians have more skills, while reminding voters the economy has added 100,000 jobs for young workers over the past year.
“These training hubs and scholarships are about setting up even more young Australians on a long-term quality career path, and giving them the skills to be more than competitive into the future,” Mr Morrison said.
The hubs are meant to work with local schools and employers to identify skills demands and encourage students to sign up for vocational training.
The $58 million will include 400 Vocational Education and Training (VET) scholarships as well as the hubs.
The scholarships, worth up to $17,500 each, will be open to people aged 15 to 24 in the chosen locations to study from certificate III to advanced diploma level.
The Gosford hub is in the electorate of Robertson, held by Liberal MP Lucy Wicks on a margin of just 1.1 per cent. The Grafton hub is in Page, held by Nationals MP Kevin Hogan by just 2.3 per cent.
The Shepparton hub is in the electorate of Nicholls, previously known as Murray and held by Nationals MP Damian Drum by a margin of 22.6 per cent. This is the Coalition’s safest seat.
The government will also commit to hubs in Alice Springs, in the safe Labor seat of Lingiari; in the Queensland city of Maryborough, in the safe Liberal electorate of Wide Bay; and in the South Australian city of Port Pirie, in the safe Liberal seat of Grey.
But the program also includes four locations in highly contested areas where the Liberals need to gain ground or are under threat: Wanneroo and Armadale in Western Australia, Townsville in Queensland and Burnie in Tasmania.
Wanneroo is in the seat of Cowan, held by Labor’s Anne Aly by a margin of just 0.7 per cent, while the Armadale hub is in the Liberal seat of Canning. While Liberal MP Andrew Hastie holds Canning by 6.8 per cent, he is being targeted by GetUp and may be vulnerable to a statewide swing against the government.
Townsville is in Herbert, Labor’s most marginal electorate, and Burnie is in Braddon, held by Labor by only 1.7 per cent.