The budget was released on 2 April. There are a number of ‘big ticket items’ in it as well other proposals.

The budget in summary

Articles in the Age and commentary by KPMG highlight some of the major areas the budget addresses. According to the Age, these include “a $525 million package aimed at reviving the embattled vocational education and training sector and dramatically boosting the number of apprentices to address Australia’s skills shortages.” This package will run over 5 years.

Steven Parker of KPMG he says that education is not “a primary focus of this budget”, but “there are substantial new funding announcements intended to strengthen a vocational education and training sector that is still recovering from the aftermath of the failed implementation of FEE-HELP student loans.” Among other things, the budget initiatives are aimed at enhancing the VET brand.

The budget documents for the Department of Education and Training through its ‘Skills Package – delivering skills for today and tomorrow’ point to a range of initiatives.

The headline ones relate to apprenticeships, where $44.0 million will be provided over four years for a new ‘Streamlined Incentives Program’ “to make it simpler and easier for employers to take on an apprentice or trainee.” In addition, $156.3 million will be provided over the same period (and a further $108.0 million from 2023–24) as a new ‘Additional Identified Skills Shortage Payment’ which is targeted at “employers and apprentices in the top 10 occupations where there is a demonstrated need for increased apprenticeship commencements.” The departmental papers point out:

“This specifically targets new workers to grow the number of apprentices in training to meet future workforce needs and the new payment is expected to support up to 80,000 new commencements over five years of operation.”

Further major initiatives announced in the budget include $48.3 million over four years for the establishment of a National Skills Commission that will develop efficient pricing for training and $67.5 million over five years “to establish ten Industry Training Hubs supporting school-based vocational education in regions with high youth unemployment, with an aim of creating better linkages between schools and local industry, and other skills development measures.”

Careers advice is not neglected either, with:

“$36.3 million over four years … to establish a new National Careers Institute and appoint a National Careers Ambassador to work with industry, governments, schools and tertiary providers to ensure every working age Australian has access to high-quality, evidence-based career advice to support and inform their study and career choices.”

Neither is language, literacy, numeracy and digital literacy, with funding of $52.5 million being provided over four years “to upskill at-risk workers by supporting more than 11,000 workers with low-level language, literacy, numeracy and digital skills.”

Finally, $41.7 million will be provided over four years “for a national pilot of two Skills Organisations in the areas of digital technologies and the human services workforce. Their purpose is to “trial new, industry-led methods of qualification development and assessment, and develop standards for industry to accredit Registered Training Organisations.”

Many of the  budget initiatives were advised by the Joyce Report, just released by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Another article in this issue talks about that.