Last week the Morrison Government announced a $2 billion investment to give hundreds of thousands of Australians access to new skills by retraining and upskilling them into sectors with job opportunities, as the economy recovers from COVID-19.Customised training pic opt

JobTrainer is the latest employment support initiative, following the ‘job’ theme of previously announced initiatives JobSeeker, JobKeeper and JobMaker to deal with economic impact of coronavirus.

Through JobTrainer, the Federal Government will offer free or low-cost short and long courses to those left unemployed by coronavirus, as well as providing $1.5 billion of the commitment to wage subsidies for apprentices. The new $1 billion JobTrainer program is projected to create up to 340,700 new positions to support school-leavers and job seekers access short and long courses to develop new skills in growth sectors and create a pathway to more qualifications struggling in an overcrowded job market.

Courses will be free or low cost in areas of identified need, with the Federal Government providing $500 million with matched contributions from state and territory governments.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison conceded “the jobs and skills we’ll need as we come out of the crisis are not likely to be the same as those that were lost.”

The package also includes an additional $1.5 billion to expand the wage incentive to help keep apprentices in work. It builds on the initial $1.3 billion package announced in March.

In addition to small businesses already covered, the wage subsidy will now be available to medium businesses with less than 200 employees for apprentices employed as at 1 July 2020. Around 180,000 apprentices and 90,000 small and medium businesses that employ them will now be supported, with the program extended by six months to March 2021.

The initiative covers 50 per cent of the wages paid to apprentices and trainees, up to $7,000 per quarter.

Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Michaelia Cash said the National Skills Commission would play a critical role in identifying current and future skills needed in a challenging and changing labour market.

“We will work with States and Territories to develop a list of qualifications and skill sets that will provide job seekers with the skills that are in demand by employers and are critical to the economic recovery,” she said.

States and territories need to sign up to a new Heads of Agreement to access JobTrainer funding, with the agreement setting out immediate reforms to improve the vocational education and training sector, and providing the foundation for long term improvements as outlined by the Prime Minister in his recent speech to the National Press Club.

Resource employers welcome JobTrainer, call for targeted approach

Australian Resources and Energy Group AMMA welcomed the support for skills development through the $2 billion JobTrainer package, highlighting it will assist Australia’s resources and energy employers to lead the economic recovery from the COVID-19 health pandemic.

“This will assist in arresting the sliding number of apprentices and trainees, but longer-term will help more Australians access diverse, highly-paid and rewarding careers within the resources and energy industry,” AMMA Director Operations, Tara Diamond, said.

Ms Diamond cautioned that for the funding to deliver long-term positive outcomes for both employees and employers, it must be targeted to address key areas of skills demand and shortages.

“Understanding and pinpointing the areas of current and future workforce demand must be a priority for the government’s new skills package,” she said.

“Employers want to know specifically how the type of training is determined and what modelling will be used to identify the skills most in demand.”

An AMMA Workforce Modelling report, released a few months prior to COVID-19, estimated that new resources and energy projects would create around 21,000 new long-term jobs in the resources and energy industry by 2024.

While the economic environment has changed markedly, Ms Diamond said this modelling provides strong insight into what occupations in the resources and energy sector will become in demand.

“The pre-COVID workforce modelling showed likely demand for 8,660 mining equipment operators, 2,847 heavy diesel fitters and 970 other tradespeople across electrical, mechanical and maintenance trades,” she said.

“This is just operating roles in the mining industry over the next four years. Factoring in construction trades required to build new resources and major public infrastructure projects, and the demands will be far greater.

“More trainees and apprentices with the right skills in the right areas, will be critical for our nation’s economic recovery.

“Additionally, this focus on apprenticeships cannot afford to leave females behind. As we know the majority of trade apprenticeships are males – we must equally encourage both males and females to be skilled and up-skilled in trades.”

ACCI welcomes training incentive

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, of which AMMA is a member, said the commitment from the Federal Government to extend the 50 per cent wage subsidy for apprentices until 31 March 2021 and expand the scheme to medium sized businesses is an important step in preserving the skills we need as our economy struggles to emerge from the COVID crisis.

“In our letter to the Prime Minister in early June, we identified the need for the apprentice wage subsidy to be extended beyond its original end date of September and to expand it to embrace apprentices employed in larger businesses,” ACCI CEO James Pearson said.

“Skills investment is an essential part of the solution to our current unemployment and underemployment crisis. This latest commitment not only provides certainty, but it acknowledges the economic road out of the COVID crisis will be rocky.

“The reversal of some steps in the roadmap to reopening has rocked business confidence and stirred up more financial angst. It is therefore vital that at this difficult time we preserve skills for the future.

“We look forward to working with Government in the run up to the October Budget on appropriate incentives to encourage new apprentices and trainees as the economy recovers and there are more job opportunities available.

“Industry input on the proposed new skills agreement between the Commonwealth and State/Territory governments is key to its success. This includes how the economy can best benefit from the substantial JobTrainer investment.”