Media Release by The Hon Sarah Henderson MP

Social enterprise provides hands-on job opportunities for former students

Unemployed former students in Geelong will learn practical skills and gain experience while earning an award wage income, through a trial social enterprise initiative aimed at providing pathways into longer-term employment.

Assistant Minister for Social Services, Housing and Disability Services Sarah Henderson today launched the My Maintenance Crew project as part of the Government’s $96.1 million Try, Test and Learn Fund.

Around $2.3 million will be devoted to the initiative over 28 months, providing 125 young people with real job opportunities, primarily in building maintenance and public event clean-up to address unmet demand in the greater Geelong region.

“This initiative will provide participants with genuine employment skills and connections through award-paid jobs, working in maintenance projects such as renovating a house for newly arrived migrants and refugees, working on a building site or converting an unused nursing home into an office,” Ms Henderson said.

“Priority Investment Approach evidence shows that unemployed former students are particularly vulnerable to long-term welfare dependence.

“If nothing changes, 39 per cent are expected to be receiving income support payments in 10 years, and 30 per cent are expected to be receiving income support payments in 20 years.

“On average, former young students who move straight onto unemployment payments are expected to be receiving income support in 33 years over their future lifetime, and this Government is determined to improve these concerning odds.

“This project aims to break the cycle of welfare dependency through combining on-the-job work experience, with a suite of training and pathways to employment, which will help participants with their health and wellbeing, self-esteem and financial security.”

Ms Henderson said the work will be complemented by one-on-one mentoring, counselling and personal development training, including the development of personal work plans to identify opportunities for further skills training.

“This includes access to a counselling drop-in service that supports participants to overcome barriers to ongoing employment, such as medical and social issues, and ensures participants have full access to wrap-around services,” Ms Henderson said.

“As this is a social enterprise, these young people will be provided with a real wage and any profits will be reinvested in the initiative to help other young people develop the skills and knowledge they need to move from welfare to work.

“Experience in hands-on professions will improve the employability of these young people and prepare them for ongoing employment in the mainstream economy, for example as independent contractors in the maintenance sector.”

Diversitat will deliver this trial and General Manager, Garry Gow, said that the response and support from the local community has been very positive.

“We believe My Maintenance Crew will provide meaningful skills and work experience for the young people involved while also providing quality services to the Geelong community,” Mr Gow said.

Young people and local businesses interested in taking part in this trial should visit

The Try, Test and Learn Fund closed for applications on 28 September, and selected initiatives will share in up to $50 million for trials that improve people’s lives and reduce welfare dependency.

More information about the Try, Test and Learn Fund can be found on the Department of Social Services’ website.