The Federal budget was released on 29 March. As usual there is some focus on VET and, as usual, the major focus appears to be on apprentices and trainees. That’s not the whole story, though.

What the treasurer said in his budget speech

In his speech Treasurer Josh Frydenberg pointed to what the Federal Government had done in the VET space, what they will do and why they are doing it. He told the Parliament that “we have a historic opportunity to get young Australians into skilled, secure and well‑paid jobs.” And that “the dignity of work is important for all Australians.” And so, “during this pandemic, we have already invested $13 billion in skills and training.”

What he announced was “a new $2.8 billion investment to increase take up and completion rates” by providing $5,000 payments to new apprentices and up to $15,000 in wage subsidies for employers who take them on. This budget also lays the foundations for a $3.7 billion investment in national skills reform which sees support for an additional 800,000 training places to help ensure “businesses get the skilled workers they need.” Small businesses “that invest in skills and new technology” will be rewarded, and “no one knows better than a small business owner what skills they need in their employees.” So, “for every hundred dollars a small business spends on training their employees, they will get a $120 tax deduction” in order to help them “become more productive and competitive.”

Finally, the treasurer announced that “we also fund new and expanded programs to help find employment for disadvantaged youth, Indigenous Australians, the mature aged and Australians with a disability.”

To really look at the detail, though, you have to look at the budget papers and a useful place to start is the Federal Department’s website which puts some more meat in the bones of the Treasurer’s speech in relation to “skills and training”.

What the Federal Department’s (DESE’s) website tells us

Here are some of the highlights:

First, “up to $12 billion over 5 years will be committed in support of the National Skills Agreement (NSA) with states and territories,” with $3.7 billion this year topping up “the $8.3 billion National Skills and Workforce Development Specific Purpose Payment.” The NSA has yet to be agreed but will, it is hoped, “transform the way all governments support vocational education and training, ensuring greater national consistency, and that investment decisions are transparent, evidence-based and linked to skills need. The NSA has the potential to deliver around 800,000 additional training places over 5 years.” A Financial Review article highlighted in a recent TDA News item (entitled ‘Row erupts over skills agreement’) suggests that there are some potential core difficulties with the NSA, however.

Second, $365.3 million will “extend the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements (BAC) wage subsidy for three months to 30 June 2022 and the Completing Apprenticeship Commencements (CAC) wage subsidy to 30 June 2027.”

Third, “building on the success of the BAC wage subsidy, $2.4 billion is going towards the new Australian Apprenticeships Incentive System (AAIS), which will commence on 1 July 2022. The new AAIS is designed to increase commencements and completions in occupations on the Australian Apprenticeship Priority List (priority occupations) and support employers around Australia to fill skills shortages. In addition, expanded support will be available “for eligible employers and Australian Apprentices in regional and remote Australia to support greater apprenticeship completions.”

Fourth, and little trumpeted so far, “$38.6 million is going towards encouraging women to take up an apprenticeship in a non-traditional trade occupation. This includes priority occupations that have had a historically low take-up by women, such as carpenters, bricklayers and electricians.” And “$3.9 million will be provided to support women considering a transition into the tech workforce. This will include access to resources, online training, coaching and mentoring to support women to pursue a mid-career transition into the tech workforce.”

In addition, $2.8 million will help support an additional 2,500 Australians aged between 15 and 20 to their apprenticeship through the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network by providing “pastoral care, mentoring, counselling, career guidance and referrals to other specialist services. “The JobTrainer Fund will be expanded, with the Government investing a further $48.5 million over 2 years, contingent on matched funding from states” with a focus on Australia’s aged care workforce.

Finally, and interestingly for readers no doubt, “$17.5 million over 5 years is being provided to the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to undertake training package assurance for the national vocational education and training (VET) system.”