By Michael Giles

WHAT would it take to get you to send an email to the Minister for Education or the Minister for Employment?
What if it was an issue affecting your kids and their chances of gaining work experience while at school and a job afterwards?
Would that do it? Would you take action and write an email to the relevant Minister or your local MP if your kids were affected?
Because it’s high time that the community started to take an interest in some of the programs, especially youth programs, that have been cut and are still being cut in this area.
You’ve heard us banging on and on in the past few weeks about the changes to the access and referral arrangements for people needing drug, alcohol and mental health support.
And last week, the ‘Sentinel-Times’ highlighted what Bass Coast Health CEO Veronica Jamison said about the cuts to youth services generally in this area, and the problems accessing services in the Latrobe Valley.
She especially wants the return of funding for the ‘Youth Connections’ program, a program which supports vulnerable students to stay in education, but which was withdrawn by the State Government at the end of 2014.
Now we hear of yet another school-to-work transition program that is set to be cut at the end of this year, funding for the position of a ‘Workplace Leaning Coordinator’ in South Gippsland and Bass Coast.
These people help hard-pressed careers teachers at our secondary colleges to find workplaces and work experience opportunities for kids at school, also helping with programs to support their school-to-work transition.
It’s absolutely vital work that will be gone at the end of the year.
Ironically, it was previously a Federal Government program, which the State Government agreed to pick up for a year in an effort to keep it going.
Ironic because this week, the new Federal Minister for Employment in Canberra, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, has just come out with an offer for organisations and agencies “that are well connected in their community to tender to deliver services especially designed to get young, early-school leavers into jobs”.
It’s a ‘Transition to Work’ service that will target those aged 15 to 21 who are out of work and not engaged in education.
“The Government is committed to ensuring that every Australian who can work is able to find work,” Minister Cash said.
“The best form of welfare is work,” she said.
Crikey, it makes your blood boil to hear that when you know they are cutting the very programs that are doing a great job of helping kids stay in the system and also ease their transition to work.
You can help.
Write to one or all of these people (below) and insist that funding for the ‘Youth Connections’ program and ‘Workplace Learning’ programs are restored and that a full assessment is made of youth services in South Gippsland and Bass Coast.
The clincher is that unemployment levels in Gippsland-Latrobe are running at 11.8 per cent, more than double Melbourne’s rate of 5.7 per cent and workforce participation percentages are also way down in Victorian country areas.
• Australian Minister for Employment, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash: minister.cash@employment.gov.au
• Victorian Minister for Education, James Merlino: james.merlino@parliament.vic.gov.au
• Victorian Minister for Employment, Jacinta Allan: jacinta.allan@parliament.vic.gov.au