One Stop Training director Jeff Lamb is warning about a network of recruitment agencies advertising jobs to lure people into government subsidised training amid the coronavirus unemployment crisis. Picture: Jamie Hanson
One Stop Training director Jeff Lamb is warning about a network of recruitment agencies advertising jobs to lure people into government subsidised training amid the coronavirus unemployment crisis. Picture: Jamie Hanson

Beware: The job ads that aren’t all they seem

Queenslanders desperate for work amid the coronavirus crisis are being lured into applying for jobs then funnelled into government-funded training in a call-centre-like operation.

An investigation can reveal a sophisticated network of recruitment firms, middlemen and registered training organisations are raking $60,000 or more in government subsidies for two-week courses by luring applicants with a stream of vague job advertisements.

Job applicants are then hounded into enlisting in "free" subsidised training, with agency staff insisting they must enrol in the courses to score a job.

In one agency's case, the sales pitch involved claiming a food processing course had become mandatory for factory workers under new laws, which it linked to things becoming "a little bit tight" due to coronavirus.

Multiple training and food factory sources have told the newspaper no such laws exist.

Job applicants told The Sunday Mail any discussion of the advertised jobs evaporating once they enlisted in training and their one-time government funding offer expired.

Others say phone calls were abruptly ended once the agency realised they were ineligible to access funding under the State Government's subsidised Certificate 3 Guarantee program.

But despite shelling out $978 million on taxpayer-funded training last financial year, the State Government has failed to follow-up with one industry insider offering detailed information about allegations job advertisers were ramping up activities to cash in on the jobless crisis.

There are fears the phony job offers will only intensify as the Federal Government tips $1 billion into training through its JobTrainer fund to help out-of-work Australians.

He alleges the State Government fees paid to training organisers were being divided up between a network of recruiters - who are paid for each person they attract to the course - and at times a middleman organising the training sessions at halls and venues around the southeast.

Mr Lamb said he was approached by one company in the network late last year trying to negotiate a 25 per cent cut of the government training funding for each person it sent to his courses.

He said he had worked with the network when it began sending him people for training about five years ago, but severed ties when he realised none of the trainees were being put into actual jobs.

"This is a boom time for these job advertisers to be preying on people," Brisbane-based One Stop Training director Jeff Lamb said.

"I would guess they are rubbing their hands together with glee," he said. 

"Prior to COVID they had started to expend a lot of their database. People were wise to this job advertising and there were fewer people coming into the unemployment pool.

"What's happened now is you have this huge influx of people who are in a different demographic to what they had before."

The Sunday Mail tested the claims for itself, with a reporter going undercover to pose as a job applicant seeking work in an entry level factory job or as a labourer in the landscaping industry.

After uploading applications for 16 jobs with nine recruiters advertising on job platforms Seek and Indeed late one night this week, the reporter was fielding calls from agency staff pushing training courses by the 8.37am the next morning.

First off the rank was JC Recruitment, whose co-director Joanne Forsdike is also a director of State Government-licenced labour hire companies, Staffco Labour Hire and Platinum Staff.

JC had advertised "a variety of ongoing roles" on Seek in distribution centres and factories in the Ipswich region paying $50,000 a year. Experience was "not essential."

The advertisements referred to an "ongoing skill shortages" and that "the Australian Government has estimated around 15,000 positions will be opening up in the coming weeks to fill this shortage."

A JC worker phoned, offering to put the reporter's name forward for positions in Carole Park and a closer-to-home job she stumbled on during the phone call in Chermside.

"We'll just start you out pick packing."

But the worker then introduced the need for training, implying it was now mandatory due to COVID-19.

"Now in terms of, you don't necessarily need experience, but do to COVID mate, things have got a little bit tight when it comes to the handling of food," she said.

"The industry has got quite strict and the health department has put in some legislation that anyone handling food in a warehouse does need to be certified with a Cert 3 in the food processing."

She said she would connect him with a separate training organisation that would help "obtain that Certificate 3 that you need for the warehouse role," saying the Government was "covering a lot of certifications at the moment." The course would be much closer, "maybe in Chermside," she said.

"So unfortunately it's sort of a double edged sword. It's a really good time to be getting into the industry with so much work going but there's also a couple of hoops we have to jump through to get you upskilled and have those right qualifications.."

Food manufacturing industry sources told the newspaper this week there was no such requirement to hold a Certificate 3 in Food Processing to work in a food-related factory in Queensland.

They also said jobs in the industry were scarce amid high retention rates as work elsewhere dried up.

Ms Forsdike told the newspaper no company she was involved with had received any funding in return for referring job applicants to training organisations to attend subsidised courses.

She also confirmed it was incorrect that a Certificate 3 in Food Processing was required by law to work in a food factory and said she did not know why a JC Recruitment worker would say it was.

Ms Forsdike said

Ms Forsdike said she had sold the business to co-director Catrin Wynne-Roberts, who told the newspaper the company had "absolutely not" advertised jobs to lure people into training.

"I place over 100 staff a week into jobs," she said. "Easily. My busiest week was over 400 a week, so definitely not true," she said.

She said the employer name was not provided to interested job applicants because of confidentiality agreements with their clients.

One of the job ads
One of the job ads

Asked why a JC staff member stated it was mandated by law for food factory workers to hold a Certificate 3 in Food Processing, she said "they have never said it was a law, no."

A caller from StaffCo, of which Ms Forsdike is a director, also offered training at Chermside within minutes of calling in response to an application for an advertisement for factory jobs at North Lakes and Brendale.

"Well I want to help you out okay. But for this client, okay, they came back to us saying they need someone with qualifications to back up work because they are going to be handling food and perishable goods," the unidentified caller said.

"During the training you will be assisted by a company called The Job Coach," he said.

JobCoach is run by Brisbane-based Job Coaching Australia director Darrell Ballard. Mr Ballard also has ties to Ms Forsdike, who preceded him as a director of Job Coaching Australia. Ms Forsdike said she "works alongside them (JobCoach) sometimes."

A pre-enrolment information pack for a Certificate 3 in Food Processing course with Compact Services Queensland starting at the Chermside Guide Hut within days was later emailed.

Ms Forsdike said all jobs advertised by Staffco were "absolutely" real jobs.

Mr Ballard did not return the newspaper's phone calls.

Another agency to direct the newspaper to training via JobCoach was Gold Coast-based BYC Recruitment after it advertised on seek.com.au for landscape and horticulture labourers.

A worker phoned to check the reporter's birthdate, before calling back to say he had found a training opportunity that would be a "game changer".

The $3700 cost of the Certificate 3 in Horticulture would be picked up by the Government, he said.

"Mate. I've been in the office since after Christmas and mate I've never seen anything like this being thrown up," the caller said. He says the training organisers, JobCoach, "have many jobs coming up."

 

Absolutely mate. We are in your corner mate and you'll have JobCoach in your corner as well

Job applications for factory work with recruiter Stallion Job Assist resulted in a call to ask if he would complete forklift training if selected, even though a forklift ticket was said to be not necessary.

The company did not return The Sunday Mail's calls.

New Zealand resident Aldara Lizarde said she was desperate for work on the Gold Coast last August when she responded to a hospitality job vacancy advertised by BYC Recruitment.

Despite having industry experience, she was offered a place in a government-subsidised Certificate 3 in Hospitality with registered training organisation The Learning Collaborative.

She said the phone call sounded "very promising" but left before finishing the two-week course as she felt she was not learning anything new and independently found herself a job.

Aldara Lizarde
Aldara Lizarde

"It definitely was not worthwhile," she said. There was 20-25 people in the course, she said.

BYC manager Aaron Murray said the company had "definitely not" advertised jobs to push people into training courses, but said he "was aware of a lot of companies that do that." He said it only offered an "upskill option."

Mr Murray said it had agreements with five or six registered training organisations (RTO) and received some of the government funding via the RTO for organising training for job applicants.

He said it also received a "small referral fee" for each job applicant it referred to JobCoach to enrol in a Certificate 3 in Horticulture it was co-ordinating.

Marsden resident Dan Ormsby said he was pressured to enrol in subsidised training back in 2018 by an agency after applying for a position when he was briefly jobless despite 20 years' experience.

He said he turned it down straight away.

"The first thing they told me was that they don't care about my experience, they want me to do a three-week Cert 3 course and you will get a job out of it," he said.

The Government will pay between $2528 and $2844 for a Certificate 3 in Hospitality for each eligible person, $3325-$4038 for a Certificate 3 in Food Processing and up to $4275 for a horticulture course.

But the Certificate 3 Government funding for Australian and New Zealand citizens is a one-time offer, with no further funding available following the completion of a Certificate 3 or higher training.

Mr Lamb said some jobseekers had unwittingly used up their credit after being enrolled into courses that did not lead to a job, knocking them out of training that may be more beneficial later on.

"You are a unit that had value attached to you and once you've expanded that value, which is that funding value, you are really of no use so they send you on your way," he said.

Mr Lamb had a brief meeting with an adviser for Employment Minister Shannon Fentiman last September, where he called for a review into the industry.

Mr Lamb warned in a letter to the Minister's office that the "scope of their action is increasing and becoming increasingly brazen," and amounted to a serious misuse of Government funding.

He said he offered to provide details of the claims, but never received a reply to his follow-up emails after the meeting.

A spokesman for Ms Fentiman said all complaints received by the department in relation to advertising or the quality of training are taken seriously and the Department "will not hesitate to take appropriate action against dodgy providers."

Recruitment agency director Michael Berger, of Talent Blueprint, said it was a time for opportunists given the number of people desperate for work.

"Training courses advertised as jobs is massive warning signs," he said.

"If they are asking you to do a course to progress to the next stage to get a job, that's the biggest alarm bell ever."


Hot topic: Where candidates stand on euthanasia

Premium Content Hot topic: Where candidates stand on euthanasia

Where candidates of Qld election stand on issue of euthanasia

Rocky racing loses great mate in Wayne Twigg

Premium Content Rocky racing loses great mate in Wayne Twigg

Remembering Twiggy’s passion for all things thoroughbred.

Calls for permanent leadership at two CQ high schools

Premium Content Calls for permanent leadership at two CQ high schools

“To have the leader of a school being a temporary appointment for over 12 months is...