200 young people employed from internships

Michaelia Cash

In the first four months of the federal government's much-hyped youth jobs program, only 200 young Australians have secured full-time work.

But the government is adamant those numbers will shoot up, with thousands more working their way through the three steps of the prepare-trial-hire (PaTH) scheme.

The program seeks to encourage jobseekers under 25 to take part in 4-12 week internships by paying them $200 a fortnight on top of dole payments and giving employers $1000 up front.

If a full-time job comes out of the internship, the government will give the business up to $10,000 in wage subsidies.

Since the program began on April 1, slightly more than 1000 young people have started internships and 200 have ongoing jobs, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash says.

Almost 7000 others have started preparatory training.

"The fact that to date, in a very short period of time, we've got 200 kids off welfare and into work should never be underestimated," Senator Cash told ABC radio on Tuesday.

The government aims to have up to 30,000 internships a year in the program and has recently signed a deal with the Australian Hotels Association for 10,000 placements over four years.

In the program's first two months, 582 internships were advertised and 185 young people were hosted, department officials told a Senate estimates committee.

The program has come under fire from Labor, the Greens and trade unions for, in effect, allowing young people to be paid as little as $7.60 an hour with no guarantee of ongoing work.

Under the relevant award, junior employees aged under 21 generally get paid a percentage of the adult rate, with the national minimum wage currently set at $18.29 per hour, the Fair Work Ombudsman's website says.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus says the AHA deal is a "crippling blow" to those working, or hoping to work, in the hotels sector.

"No business will employ someone on the minimum wage if they can get a worker for free," she said in a statement.

"This program is gifting young people to businesses, destroying jobs and not giving a single young person a useful skill or recognised qualification."

© AAP 2017 AAP Image/Mick Tsikas