Budget 2021: Skills in focus with JobTrainer extension and apprenticeships boost

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison wearing a face mask. Source: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

The 2021 federal budget includes a suite of measures designed to address workplace shortages, boost skills levels and get more people back into work.

As foreshadowed in pre-budget reports, the government is extending the JobTrainer fund, which provides access to affordable training courses for young people.

The budget provides for an additional $506.3 million over two years, to be matched by contributions from the states and territories.

The government expects the extension to provide approximately 163,000 extra low-fee and free training places, including 33,800 places in aged care and 10,000 places in digital skills courses.

Eligibility for the fund, which was established in 2020, will also be expanded to include employed groups most affected by the pandemic, and the government will run a $6.3 million campaign to encourage Australians to take up the training places.

Apprenticeship subsidies extended

An extra $2.7 billion will be spent over four years to expand the government’s Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidies, which reimburse employers for the wages of new apprentices and trainees by up to 50%.

Under the expanded program, the number of eligible places will be uncapped and the duration of the 50% wage subsidy will be increased to 12 months.

Businesses of any size will be able to claim the subsidies for new apprentices and trainees who begin their employment between October 5, 2020, and March 31, 2022, with a maximum amount of $7,000 per quarter available.

The government also plans to provide an additional 5,000 gateway service places and in-training support services to encourage and support more women to enter non-traditional trade jobs.

A new national training register will be established, at a cost of $30.9 million, and the government intends to negotiate a new National Skills Agreement with the states and territories.

Employers who hire apprentices will be given access to a new national apprenticeships portal, which will act as a ‘one-stop-shop’ to manage their apprentice workforces. Apprentices will also be able to use the portal to understand their entitlements.

Meanwhile, the government has also revealed plans to help support digital apprentices and trainees, including via a $10.7 million trial of a digital skills cadetship, in sectors such as cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing, data analytics, game design and animation.

Local Jobs Program and disadvantaged job seekers

In further budget measures designed to help job seekers improve their skills and gain employment, the government plans to spend $213.5 million over four years to expand the existing Local Jobs Program.

The program will be expanded to 51 employment regions, and extended for three years, from June 30, 2022, to June 30, 2025.

Wage subsidies for eligible jobseekers on job active, Transition to Work and ParentsNext payments will also be increased to $10,000, in a budget measures designed to encourage employers to hire disadvantaged people.

This sits alongside a broader revamp of the employment services model, with the government’s ‘New Employment Services Model’ to replace jobactive, and give job seekers the ability to choose between digital or face-to-face support services.

As part of this change, the existing New Business Assistance program within the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme will also be receiving an extra $129.8 million to ‘streamline’ the program, in a bid to encourage individuals who want to start their own business.

The New Business Assistance currently offers support payments to 12,000 individuals working on their own businesses.

The new funding will pay for an additional 1,000 places in the New Business Assistance stream and another 350 places in the ‘Exploring Being My Own Boss Workshop’ program.

The government will also spend $6.2 million over two years to run as many as 26 physical and virtual job fairs over a 12-month period.

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