The Federal Government’s Youth Jobs PaTH (Prepare-Trial-Hire) program has received the backing of employers and business groups, including the Motor Trades Association of Australia Limited (MTAA), who have pledged to use the scheme to give unemployed young Australians the opportunity to obtain employment and apprenticeships. The pilot scheme has, however, been slammed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) who believe the program may displace apprenticeships and threaten existing workplace agreements.

Unveiled in the 2016 Federal Budget, the Youth Jobs PaTH aims to help young people gain entry into the labour market through pre-employment skills training – by funding up to 120,000 internships for young people to gain work experience, and an increased wage subsidy for employers who open their shop doors for young job seekers.

Treasurer Scott Morrison and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash officially unveiled the initiative in Adelaide at a smash repair business on Tuesday, coinciding with the government’s launch of a website where prospective employers can register their interest for the program.

Mr Morrison said the internship program would give businesses more incentive to employ young workers, not less.

“We talked to businesses and said how can we better support you to give the young people a go? Their answer was we want to give them a go but it is costing too much and the risk is too great. That was a big impediment to young people and small businesses like this one getting together to give young people a go,” said Morrison.

“This is a plan that will actually help young people who have been unemployed for some time to get on a path to be in a job and get a path off welfare. If you want to do something about the cost of welfare in this country, you have to get young people into jobs. Otherwise, you’re resigning them to a life of welfare and no choices.”

According to the ATCU, however, interns enrolled in Youth Jobs PaTH will earn as little as $4 an hour and the program could potentially drag down overall pay and work conditions, and may displace apprenticeships within South Australia’s automotive industry.

ACTU’s President, Dave Oliver said he feared businesses would favour lower paid interns over apprentices.

“PaTH would be a disaster, not only for the young people it would exploit directly, but for anyone in a low-paid job who would experience crushing downward pressure on their wages as the bottom is torn out of the employment market.

“People are understandably receptive to any plan to get young people into jobs, but once the draconian details of this attack on all workers become clear, any support the coalition has for this scheme evaporates.”