The government’s $840 million PaTH internship program has come under fire again after over a dozen businesses were named and shamed in Senate Estimates yesterday for abusing the program.
It was revealed one business, JWM Communications, was given $17,000 in taxpayer funds to host 17 interns, but despite receiving what the department says amounts to 68 hours of free labour, did not hire a single one.
The company has been ejected from the program, but the Department of Jobs and Small Business has thus far been unsuccessful in recovering any of the money.
Under the PaTH program, businesses are paid $1,000 for hosting a young intern and are then invited to move them into a more permanent role, with extra wage subsidies of between $6,500 and $10,000 available.
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Prospective interns participate in a six-week training program, often administered by a third-party training provider, before being made eligible for the four-to-12 week placements, which run between 15-25 hours a week.
Interns are paid $200 per fortnight in addition to their existing government income support for participation.
While initially spruiked as a way to get young unemployed people into work, the program has failed to meet its targets for business or intern participation since being announced in 2016.
In Estimates we asked what was being done to recover the $17,000 in public funds paid to a business in the PaTH program that got about a year’s worth of free labour out of 17 “interns” but didn’t hire any of them. Answer: the government has sent the business a letter. #auspol
— Terri Butler MP (@terrimbutler) February 20, 2019
Updated figures revealed in estimates yesterday place the number of completed internships at 5,619, well short of the annual placement target of 30,000.
Since the program began in 2017, fewer than 4,000 businesses have signed up to participate in the program, far below the 18,000-20,000 target the department has previously estimated it needs to achieve.
Business owners SmartCompany has previously spoken to about the program have complained it’s difficult to participate in and has delivered poor results.
Those named and shamed yesterday are not the first to come under scrutiny for their use of the program either.
Back in 2017, just a few months after the program got started, the Espresso Lane coffee chain was booted from the program after allegations surfaced it was underpaying workers.
Meanwhile, late last year Hungry Jacks was criticised for advertising PaTH internship positions for Christmas casual roles.
The government continues to defend the scheme though, with the department yesterday noting the abusers account for just 0.5% of participating firms.
SmartCompany contacted JWM Communications for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.