Commonwealth Government Commits to Foundation Skills in Budget

The Commonwealth Government has commenced with a major commitment to foundation skills – language, literacy, numeracy, digital and employability skills – as part of this year’s Budget.

In a pre-Budget interview, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said, “We have initiatives to try to get some of the long term unemployed into roles with more specialist intensive support as well as a focus on foundational skills.”

The Treasurer also acknowledged the special requirements of teaching language, literacy and numeracy: “It does require additional resources for some of this more intensive training. There’s an economic and social dividend from taking people out of long term unemployment and into work, which has consequences for the individual’s quality of life but also for those around them.”

The Australian Government has announced that it will provide $23.6 million over four years to support greater access to foundation skills training for Australians with low levels of language, literacy, numeracy and digital literacy (LLND) through:

  • An additional $20.6 million for the Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program to improve access and outcomes for participants (see below);
  • An additional $2 million for the Reading Writing Hotline to strengthen the stakeholder engagement function and help connect hard to reach cohorts with available training; and
  • $1 million for research activities to support foundation skills policy development, which will strengthen the understanding of the need, demand and delivery of foundation skills across Australia.

“Community Colleges Australia is most pleased to see the Government’s commitment to additional foundation skills funding in the coming year. We are especially happy to learn of additional resources for the Reading Writing Hotline, to assist and expand their outreach activities,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of Community Colleges Australia (CCA).

CCA notes that the Mission Statement of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) is to “contribute to Australia’s economic prosperity and social wellbeing by creating opportunities and driving better outcomes for people, through education, skills and employment pathways.”

“The inclusion of the phrase ‘social wellbeing’ is significant, and relates directly to many of the non-economic components of Australia becoming a more literate nation,” said Dr Perlgut.

“Australia’s adult and community education providers contribute some of the country’s greatest effort to teaching adult literacy, numeracy, language and digital skills. We are pleased that the Commonwealth has taken a policy lead in ensuring the expansion of foundation skills programs,” said Dr Perlgut.

Read CCA’s overall analysis of the Commonwealth Budget.

Community Colleges Australia National ACE Summit

CCA’s National 2021 ACE Summit – in Sydney and online, on 29 June 2021 – will broaden the knowledge of the national ACE sector, and showcase its community-based, innovative programs and pathways that can help governments succeed in meeting Australia’s economic, employment and social challenges in the light of the Coronavirus pandemic-induced recession., foundation skills will be one of the two focus areas of the Summit, along with changes to the aged care workforce. Plans to update the National Foundation Skills Strategy for Adults (last published in 2012) will also be discussed.

The Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) Program

As part of the Australian Government’s commitment to providing stronger support for foundation skills under the Heads of Agreement for Skills Reform, the Government will provide $16.6 million to expand eligibility for, and uncap the number of hours job seekers are able to access within, the Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program. The Government is also providing $4.0 million over two years from 2021–22 to support projects to better incorporate digital skills training for job seekers in the SEE program. The measure will support more job seekers to improve their language, reading, writing, mathematics and digital skills to boost their employment prospects.

The Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) Program helps eligible job seekers learn the skills they need to get the job they want by improving their language, reading, writing and maths skills.

The program provides up to 650 hours of training and is delivered across Australia, from metropolitan and regional areas, right through to remote communities.

It caters to various groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, youth, people with disabilities, mature aged people, and job seekers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. The changes to the SEE program will:

  • uncap funded places;
  • expand eligibility to all registered job seekers;
  • allow participants to complete an accredited qualification related to or incorporating language, literacy, numeracy and digital literacy skills up to Certificate level III; and
  • provide project funding to accelerate inclusion of digital literacy skills training, trial innovative delivery practices to improve access and obtain better program outcomes and deliver more flexible training models for job seekers in remote Australia.

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