Incentive payments for businesses looking to employ apprentices would double to $8,000 per placement under a $525 million government proposal to overhaul Australia’s Vocational Education and Training (VET) system.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg promised to create up to 80,000 new apprenticeships by 2024 in his budget on Tuesday, singling out skills investment as a pillar of the coalition’s election pitch.
The so-called Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow program has proposed $347.9 million in funding over the next five years for boosting apprenticeship investments in areas of identified skill shortage.
The incentive program itself will also be “streamlined and simplified” to make it easier for businesses and job seekers to access the scheme.
Apprentices — in areas including baking, bricklaying, carpentry and plumbing according to the Treasurer – will receive $2,000 incentive payments from taxpayers under the scheme.
Delivering his budget address on Tuesday night, Frydenberg said the government needed to ensure the economy has the skills it needs.
“We need to ensure all Australians of all ages have the skills they need for the jobs of today and the jobs of tomorrow,” he said.
Just over $132.4 has been proposed over four years for the establishment of a new National Skills Commission, which would be tasked with delivering long-term reform to the VET sector and trailing new “skills organisations” in areas of “future job growth”.
A National Careers Institute would also be created, tasked with improving career advice and other relevant information provided to job seekers.
Government employment programs have come under criticism in recent months over long-standing gripes with the VET sector that date back to the last Labor government and a steady release of figures demonstrating failures in the government’s PaTH program.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive James Pearson claimed Australia was experiencing a “skill collapse” earlier this month, outlining measures to improve declining apprenticeship rates as important for small business.
The government said technological change needs to be provisioned for and only a “responsible and flexible” VET system can future-proof Australian workers.
“Technological change is transforming the nature of work for millions of Australians,” it said.
“New industries are emerging and existing industries are evolving, increasing demand for new skills.”
A host of measures for skills
In addition to its other measures, the government has proposed $67.5 million in funding over five years to trial 10 “national training hubs”, which would be responsible for supporting school-based vocational training in regions with high youth unemployment.
The goal is to deliver better relationships between local businesses and schools.
A further $62.4 million over four years has been proposed for improving language, literacy, numeracy and digital skills for “at-risk” workers — although the budget doesn’t specify who these workers are or who would teach them.
Under this measure, four Indigenous delivery pilots would also be set up to provide “tailored services” in remote communities, although there was no mention of what these services would include.
Just over $34 million would be spent in 2019-20 under a government proposal to support the Skilling Australians Fund, National Partnership Agreement and other unspecified initiatives to boost apprentice and traineeship numbers.
The government also wants to spend $20.1 million in 2019-20 identifying Australia’s “emerging skills needs” through the Jobs and Education Data Infrastructure project.
Finally, $8.5 million over four years is being proposed for 400 training scholarships across the country, including support for the National Rugby League’s VET Apprenticeship Awareness Program.