Earn or learn targets regional Qld, NSW first

REGIONAL areas of Queensland and northern New South Wales are among the places the Abbott government hopes to target in a $44 million bid to encourage young unemployed Australians to work or earn.

As part of the government's controversial "earn or learn" policy, Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane on Wednesday released a discussion paper outlining the government's plans to get 10,000 young regional Australians into work or school.

Two programs will be rolled out from early next year; one providing scholarships for 7500 unemployed people, aged 18-24, to receive training if employers can give them a job for at least 25 hours a week for a year.

The second program will target 3000 "disengaged" young people, aged 15-18, not in school or work. The program will fund community groups which can help the teens back into school, VET courses or jobs.

Mr MacFarlane said both programs would have a "positive impact" on people living in specific regional areas with high unemployment.

But the government wants to hear from local businesses and others on the discussion paper before it decides which areas get the program.

Regional areas already under consideration include the Wide Bay, the Darling Downs, Sunshine Coast, Fitzroy, Mackay and Toowoomba in Queensland and Richmond-Tweed, the mid-north coast and Coffs Harbour-Grafton in NSW.

The pilot programs, to start in March next year, will be reviewed after a year of operation before the government decides whether it will expand them into other areas.

Mr MacFarlane said the discussion sets out "a range of proposed design options" and the government wanted to hear from all "stakeholders to ensure we get the best result possible as we work together to tackle regional youth unemployment".

The paper is online at http://www.vetreform.industry.gov.au and public consultations will close on November 14 this year.