LABOR has vowed to save local education and employment networks fighting the south-west’s region’s youth unemployment crisis.
The future of the networks including the south-west local learning and employment network (SWLLEN) is in doubt after the federal government pulled its share of the funding in the May budget.
The networks, which were founded in 2001, had initially been funded solely by Victoria but their position is now unclear.
Commonwealth funding will cease in December.
Labor has promised to pay $32 million over four years to keep the state’s 31 LLENs open, if it wins government in Victoria.
The south-west LLEN is leading a campaign to solve the region’s 14.5 per cent youth unemployment rate, which is heavily linked to the south-west’s poor year 12 attainment.
According to the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) statistics released in June, one in six Western District school leavers are neither employed nor in full-time education.
That figure could worsen to one in four by 2016, according to SWLLEN.
Across the south-west, only 57 per cent of students reach year 12 or an equivalent — significantly lower than the 74 per cent state average.
SWLLEN acting chief executive Helen Bayne welcomed the development.
“It’s great news. There have been doubts. But for years that’s been the environment we’ve worked in,” Ms Bayne said.
“It’s good to see Labor recognising the important role that LLENs play.”
SWLLEN has helped organise six working groups across the south-west to respond to the year 12 attainment rate.
“They’re currently developing an action plan, which will be endorsed at the end of the year,” Ms Bayne.
She said government funding had created uncertainties among the working groups if the LLENs are shut down.
Labor higher education, skills and apprenticeships spokesman Stephen Herbert said the networks had supported people at risk, or had already been severed from the workforce or training.
“LLENs are critical to communities right across Victoria and are a resource that we cannot afford to lose,” Mr Herbert said.
“Labor’s commitment will ensure that young people have access to a service that supports them in a time of high unemployment.”
A spokeswoman for Education Minister Martin Dixon said the government would announce its funding plans soon.
“The Napthine government has been working with the LLENs to ensure they don’t fall off the cliff next year as a result of this federal government decision,” she said.
“While we won’t be able to fill the hole left by the federal government, we will be making an announcement shortly regarding arrangements for next year.”