Workways Australia, a not-for-profit employment services provider, has won a federal contract to help 3000 jobseekers in Gippsland and Latrobe Valley find work.

The successful tender from Workforce Australia, a federal government job search program, is for up to six years – an initial three years, with an optional extra three years if successful.

With the Gippsland youth unemployment rate currently 17.9 per cent, Workways chief executive, Kieren Kearney, said Workways, through its programs, aimed to help reduce that figure and help people into sustainable employment.

The official national unemployment rate is 3.5 per cent, but Mr Kearney said the youth unemployment rate, particularly in regional areas, was generally two or three times the national rate.

The lack of transport was often a crucial factor in this situation, he said. ‘Youth’ is defined as people under the age of 24.

Workways, which was founded in Bairnsdale in 1989 as a Skill Share operator, has about 100 staff at centres in Moe, Morwell, Traralgon, Sale and Bairnsdale.

Mr Kearney said it was important that Workways could offer a diversity of services to Gippsland jobseekers, so that it could better meet the needs of individuals and regional employers.

“Workways has established strong connections with local employers such as Baptcare and Greenhams Abbattoir. We want to work with potential candidates to ensure they are job ready before meeting an employer,” he said.

“Equally, we gain a good understanding of the employer to ensure conditions and roles are going to be a right fit for the jobseekers.”

Mr Kearney said Workways was able to source its clients through its own efforts and through Centre Link.

“We operate in shopping centres, through community centres, to meet people looking for work,” he said.

“We also receive referrals from local Centrelinks. The clients are a variety of people – some are underemployed, while some have not had work for a number of years.”

As a non-for-profit organisation, Mr Kearney said Workways was driven by its social purpose.

“Staff focus on the different needs of each individual, their skills and career path. This leads to a better outcome for the job seeker and most often, in long-term, meaningful employment,” he said.

Workways was one of three groups to win federal Workforce Australia tenders. The others were Jobfind and Employment Plus.