The government will effectively scrap its Australian Skills Centres of Excellence program before it even launches, while ploughing more cash into helping regional businesses find apprentices.
The government is to strip $18 million in funding from the Skills Centres of Excellence initiative at a rate of $6 million a year for the next three years.
The centres were to be established from July 1, with the aim of fostering greater innovation in the vocational education centre.
Instead, the government is to redirect the money to its new Alternative Pathways Program, which will be funded to the tune of $68.8 million over the next four years.
The program will fund training programs for apprentices in “high demand industries experiencing skill shortages”.
The vast majority of this money – $50.6 million – will be allocated to large businesses and industry bodies to train around 4,000 apprentices over four years.
However, there is some small consolation for smaller employers with a new $19.2 million funding pledge for apprentices in rural areas.
$3.5 million of this money will be used to help job seekers relocate to regional areas to take up apprenticeships, while the rest of the cash will be spent on jobs and skills exhibitions and paying the wages of employment co-ordinators who will help businesses with labour shortage issues.
Bill Shorten, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, says: “In strong economies facing new challenges it’s common that businesses find they are short of workers. This is especially the case in rural and regional Australia.
“Added to the challenges of remoteness, our regional businesses also have to adapt to the new competitive environment of the Asian Century.
“The Australian government knows how important apprentices are to the future of high-skill industries. And we know how hard it can be for businesses such as farms and mines in rural and remote parts of Australia to attract skilled workers.
“That is why we are investing $3.5 million in this very practical and targeted measure to help these industries attract more apprentices and workers to those parts of Australia that lie beyond the big cities.
“The government will provide up to $6,500 for families and $4,500 for individuals to move.”