Treasurer hints at changes to COVID-19 employment schemes, saying an extension to JobTrainer and end of JobMaker are on the table

The federal government’s JobTrainer program is set to be extended for another 12 months, as part of a plan to ensure young Australians have in-demand skills.

The extension of the program, which will likely be delivered through a $1 billion package in the May 11 budget, will offer thousands of Australians low-fee or free courses in fields such as IT, aged care and childcare, the ABC reports.

JobTrainer was established by the federal government in partnership with state-based TAFEs in 2020 to provide affordable courses to help young people develop skills needed in the workforce.

The full list of courses that are free depend on the state’s TAFE system. For example, TAFE NSW offers free courses in 26 areas of study, ranging from hair and beauty to hospitality.

To be eligible, students have to either be aged between 16 to 24, be receiving welfare, be unemployed or be expected to be unemployed.

The second function of JobTrainer is to give employers a 50% wage subsidy of up to $28,000 per year, if they hire a young person.

“An effective program”

Speaking to SmartCompany, chief executive of the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) Peter Strong welcomed any extension of JobTrainer, saying it is an “effective program”.

“JobTrainer is going well. A lot of people are taking it up, so it’s good to see it may be extended,” Strong said.

JobTrainer was one of a range of subsidies that the government created last year amid the pandemic to help boost youth employment as the unemployment rate climbed.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the ABC that JobTrainer had been a “very successful program”, creating 100,000 study pathways in areas needed in the workforce.

“We’ve had a lot of programs that have been designed to support the labour market — JobKeeper obviously being the most significant, keeping that formal connection between employers and employees,” Frydenberg said.

JobMaker unlikely to be extended

Unlike JobTrainer, the JobMaker hiring credits are not expected to be extended.

JobMaker offers payments to businesses that increase their headcounts by hiring young job seekers between October 7, 2020, and October 6, 2021.

The credits are available for additional hires who have previously received government payments, with up to $200 per week available for employees aged 16 to 29, and up to $100 per week available for employees aged between 30 and 35.

The scheme was widely criticised for discriminating against older job seekers and not being well suited to the kinds of small businesses that most needed stimulus.

Strong says while it won’t be an issue for small businesses if the credits are not extended after October, the government should be commended on establishing the program rapidly last year.

“Good on [the government] for putting it out there, but it wasn’t going to work because it needed a different delivery mechanism.”

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