The Treasurer’s budget speech did not focus at all on education and training. But its focus on welfare, essential services and infrastructure spending will have clear implications for training and the VET sector. VET, and TAFE in particular, did get a run in Labor’s budget reply though.
The government’s plan for the sector is described in the budget review on tertiary education. It centers on strengthening the Skilling Australians Fund established in the 2017-18 budget.
The Skilling Australians Fund
This fund represents “a major commitment by the Australian Government to ongoing funding for vocational education and training … and it will have a lasting positive impact on skilling Australian workers into the future.” It will be managed through a “project-based national partnership agreement” with the states and territories and each state will “will have the opportunity to develop projects for consideration by the Government. According to the fact sheet explaining it, an estimated $1.2 billion will be available over a 4-year period from 1 July 2018 until mid-2022. States will be required to match the funding provided to support their projects, and demonstrate that there is engagement with, and support from, industry and employers.
The focus of the fund is apprenticeships and traineeships in occupations in demand, and occupations reliant on skilled migration pathways. The Australian skills shortage list provides a good guide to this. In addition it focuses on industries and sectors of future growth, including tourism; hospitality; health, aging, and community and social services; engineering; manufacturing; building and construction; agriculture and digital technologies. Many of these accord with the future job openings article in this edition of the newsletter.
And there is another initiative that has VET implications…
The Government will roll out the Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers Program to Australians aged 45 to 70.
“Through individually tailored assessments and referrals the Skills Checkpoint will provide workers with advice on how to best use their existing skills in the workforce, or identify opportunities for upskilling … The Skills and Training Incentive will provide up to $2000 per worker to fund reskilling opportunities for eligible individuals aged 45 to 70, to be matched by either the individual or the employer.”
$17.3 million has been allocated. The program will begin on 1 September 2018 and will support up to 20,000 Australians over four years. The relevant budget fact sheet can be found here.
What Labor has promised
In the budget in reply speech, Labor proposes scrapping upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE students as part of a $470 million plan to “boost TAFE, apprenticeships and skills for Australians”. It has also has also promised to invest $100 million in “modernising” TAFE campuses across Australia and “guarantee” at least two out of three Commonwealth training dollars goes to TAFE. This plan has been budgeted at $473 million over the next four years and $708 million over the next decade. He also promised about 200,000 extra places at universities over 12 years, but did not provide a costing. Other information about Labor’s plan for VET, and TAFE in particular, can be found in the consultation draft for its 2018 national platform.