This big-spending budget has some news for the VET and higher education sectors.

For Higher Ed there is a focus on skilling and training given our closed borders, minimal skilled migration and some labour shortages. This means training those that are already here in Australia and getting people back to work.

What’s in it for training and VET

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s (DESE) summary of the budget papers show that there will be an expansion of the $1 billion JobTrainer scheme by a further $500 million of federal funds, which will be matched by states and territories. This will provide 10,000 additional training places focused on digital skills, including 3,000 digital apprentices and trainees, and a cadetship trial. The funding will also allow for nearly 34,000 extra training places to support the aged care sector, another key priority area in the budget.

In addition, the papers show that the government will invest an additional $2.7 billion to boost and extend the apprenticeship wage subsidies. Other initiatives include:

an investment of $30.9 million “to deliver a new National Training Register to support work with the states and territories to reform qualifications design” and just over $12 million to establish a National Digital Australian Apprenticeships Portal that will provide “a one-stop-shop to help employers manage their apprentice workforces and for apprentices to understand their entitlements.”

And $149.2 million will be invested over four years “to support new industry engagement arrangements for the VET system, enhancing the role of industry and improving governance.” The papers point out that:

“Industry clusters will be established to ensure a strong, strategic industry voice, drive collaboration across sectors, address workforce challenges, and improve the speed to market of qualifications to meet evolving industry needs.”

Career education gets a look in too, with an expansion of the National Careers Institute’s Partnerships Grants program to support innovative projects that facilitate more career opportunities and supported career pathways for women as well as funding of “$7.6 million over two years to extend the National Careers Institute’s (NCI) 1800 CAREER Information Service, to mid 2023. This service supports young people aged 15 to 24.

Finally, the budget papers report that:

“The Government is continuing to negotiate a new National Skills Agreement with the states and territories. These reforms will support high-quality and relevant training that is responsive to current and future skills needs, with more opportunities for Australians.”

We’ll highlight the Victorian budget and what is in it for providers in the next issue.

And for higher ed?

There is still the significant issue of the damage to the international student market as borders remain closed and the likely fragility of the Chinese and Indian student markets. However, the government will “implement a $53.6 million package of measures to support international education providers through fee and regulatory relief, and targeted support for those providers most affected by COVID-19.” This includes an extension on regulatory fee relief until the end of 2021, and the establishment of an “Innovation Fund for private higher education and English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) providers for up to $150,000 to adjust their business models and grow offshore and online education delivery.”

Amongst some other smaller initiatives the government will provide:

“$26.1 million for an extra 5,000 short course places at non-university higher education providers in Semester 2, 2021 [that] will allow providers to expand their course offerings to domestic students and support the upskilling of Australians.”

Finding out more

You can access a copy of the treasurer’s speech here, along with the more detailed DESE budget papers.  Other useful commentaries are available in recent newsletters from TAFE Directors Australia and Community Colleges Australia. An overview of the whole budget can be found here as well as another ‘glossy’ focused on jobs and rebuilding the economy.