The Australian Government has announced a significant skills package as part of increased Federal Budget funding for TAFE, vocational education and other training initiatives.

More than $525 million has been allocated to ensure Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) sector delivers critical skills.

The Government’s Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package responds to the expert review into Australia’s VET sector led by the Hon Steven Joyce, which set out a vision for VET as a modern and flexible alternative to classroom-based learning.

The package aims to develop the skills needed to succeed in a changing workplace and provide businesses, including those in rural and regional areas, with a pipeline of qualified workers.

The package intends to:

  • Create up to 80,000 additional apprentices over five years in priority skill shortage areas through a new apprenticeship incentive ($156.3m over four years from 2019-20 and an additional $108m in 2023-24).
  • Increase support provided to people with lower levels of education attainment to enable them to gain the skills they need to secure jobs now and into the future. This will include four pilots in remote Indigenous communities ($62.4m).
  • Address youth unemployment by providing 400 scholarships in regions throughout Australia ($8.2m).
  • Raise the profile of the VET sector and improve career advice to young Australians and workers transitioning careers by establishing a National Careers Institute and a National Careers Ambassador ($32.4m).
  • Develop skills in areas of need by building innovative partnerships between schools, employers and the VET sector through a new competitive grants program ($10m).
  • Promote a nation-wide approach to skills development, including through better identifying areas of skills shortages, and enhance the role of industry in designing training courses by establishing a National Skills Commission and piloting Skills Organisations across the country in the key areas of human services care and digital technologies including cyber security ($90m).
  • Provide greater job opportunities for young people in regions with high youth unemployment through ten Training Hubs that create better linkages between schools and local industry ($50.6m).
  • Streamline incentives for employers of apprentices and trainees and modernise the skills needs list ($44m).

Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education, Senator Michaelia Cash said the package enhances VET as a direct pathway into Australia’s labour market.

“It provides clear and reliable careers guidance to inform study choices, provides foundational skills so no one is left behind and will get more apprentices in jobs in areas of demand,” Minister Cash said.

A new apprenticeship incentive will address priority areas of skills shortage for traditional trades through an additional $4,000 incentive payment to employers and $2,000 to apprentices, while simplifying the current Australian Apprenticeship Incentives Program by consolidating the more than 30 current payment categories into 14.

AMMA welcomes skills and training focus

Increased Federal Budget funding for TAFE, VET will be pivotal in assisting the mining, oil and gas and related construction sectors address looming skills shortages, said Tara Diamond, AMMA’s Director Operations.

Resources and energy employers were also proud to see record industry earnings deliver a $20 billion boost to the 2019 Federal Budget, in addition to contributing about 20 percent of all company tax revenues.

“To underpin further resources and energy earnings growth, more investment and more industry-government collaboration is required to address skills shortages and better meet the future needs of employers and the wider industry,” Ms Diamond said.

“AMMA and our members are pleased the Government has recognised in the 2019 Federal Budget the need to work with industry on education and training systems to deliver a future pipeline of home-grown skills.

“Investing in the skills of the future is vitally important for a globally competitive Australian resources and energy industry, and sustaining the significant value such an industry delivers to our nation.”

Reform to Australia’s VET sector to focus training on high-demand skills, innovation and industry needs, was a key recommendation made by AMMA members to Minister for Resources Matthew Canavan during the 2018 Resources 2030 Taskforce consultation roundtables.

AMMA expects to work closely with whichever major party forms government after the 2019 Federal Election to put these initiatives and priorities in place.

“It is an exciting time for those considering a career in the resources and energy industry, with rapid advancements in technology creating new and more diverse employment opportunities,” Ms Diamond said.

“However many of these opportunities will demand higher levels of technical skills and expertise which will demand more from Australia’s VET and tertiary education sectors. The Government’s decision to establish a National Skills Commission will greatly assist in driving necessary reforms.

“Greater strategic coordination of curriculum and pathways across these education spheres will help unleash significant opportunities for Australian employees, employers, and all those regional communities and small businesses that rely on a thriving national resources and energy industry.”

Budget funds national labour hire scheme

Almost $27 million over four years was allocated in the Federal Budget to establish a National Labour Hire Registration Scheme.

It follows the Federal Coalition Government last month announcing it intended to adopt all 22 recommendations of the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce Report, including criminalisation of serious worker exploitation and establishing a National Labour Hire Registration Scheme.

A dedicated sham contracting unit within the Fair Work Ombudsman will also be established, with $2.3 million per year ($9.2 million over four years).

For more information on any budget or policy-related announcements, please contact [email protected]