The NSW Government 2020/21 Budget – announced by the Treasurer on 17 November – features a major focus on investment, including substantial social infrastructure, for uncertain times. For the state’s not-for-profit adult and community education (ACE) providers, the focus on skills and VET, new programs for women and innovative approaches to the social sector all stand out.
Skills and VET
VET and skills announcements include a $2.9 billion investment of:
- $318.6 million for the Skilling for Recovery training package (previously announced), to help job seekers retrain or upskill, and support school leavers entering the workforce for the first time;
- $57.4 million to establish a landmark Trades Skills Pathways Centre to address skills shortages in the NSW economy, by recognising trades skills, establishing new trades pathways and improving skilled employment opportunities for women;
- $100 million for asset replacement and maintenance at TAFE NSW campuses;
- $20 million to deliver new connected learning teaching spaces and upgrade specialist teaching facilities in at least 26 TAFE NSW campuses, including Albury, Dubbo and Griffith;
- up to 20,000 training places to skill people working in aged care to support the growing needs of the sector;
- $80 million in support for apprenticeships and cadetships in the community housing and construction sectors;
- 300 extra traineeships to be created across NSW public sector agencies;
- $17 million for upskilling, mentoring and job matching for people working in the care economy to improve recruitment and retention of workers; and
- $2.5 million for a business case for a TAFE aged care centre of excellence training facility.
Community Colleges Australia CEO, Dr Don Perlgut, comments: “This is a smart budget, and targets some crucial areas of need. We know that Australian aged care is in crisis; the Budget invests in that and prepares for the future, when the needs will be even greater.”
“We are encouraged by the planned Trades Skills Pathways Centre, and hope that it will incorporate the expertise of the state’s ACE providers. A high priority topic will be to plan proper pathways between NSW ACE providers and TAFE NSW, as cooperation in this area is sadly lacking, and State Government leadership is essential to ensure that resources are used efficiently,” said Dr Perlgut.
“The focus on TAFE investment is also important for the state. CCA recognises the shared values and important contributions that TAFE and ACE providers undertake to promote access and equity in education and training across all segments of Australian society. While we are pleased to see the State Government investing it in the public VET provider, but we are very disappointed that this has not been accompanied by additional infrastructure investment in NSW ACE providers. Earlier this year, CCA prepared a detailed submission that detailed $4.8 million of “shovel ready” ACE infrastructure projects that would simultaneously support the NSW economy and train the state’s vulnerable workers. A new program of ACE infrastructure would extend and expand the NSW Government’s valued $2.3 million 2019-20 ACE Infrastructure Maintenance program,” said Dr Perlgut.
The Budget includes an innovative program to spend $10 million to assist women to get back into the workforce. Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the program would provide women with financial assistance and targeted support including mentoring, advice and training to help them return to the workforce. Treasurer Mr Perrottet said, “We know that many part-time or casual positions and female-dominated industries were severely impacted by COVID-19, so we are looking to empower as many women as possible to be able to get back into paid employment.”
The Return to Work Program aligns with the NSW Women’s Strategy, which sets the NSW Government’s priorities for supporting women and girls, especially following times of crisis. The announcement received extensive positive press coverage, which emphasised the $5,000 back to work grants.
CCA CEO, Dr Don Perlgut comments: “We are thrilled to see this innovative approach. As the NSW Treasurer says, women have suffered more economically than men have from the impacts of the Coronavirus and associated disruptions. They lost their jobs at faster rates than men, and the Commonwealth Budget missed the opportunity to develop a jobs plan for women. NSW ACE providers, in contrast to other VET providers in the state, over-perform in relation to engaging female learners: In 2019, more than 62 percent of NSW ACE government-funded VET students were female, compared to 53 percent of TAFE, 48 percent of private for-profit providers, and 50 percent of other providers. Our sector has an important role to play in training women, and looks forward to participating in this program.”
The Social Sector
The NSW Budget commits $50 million in 2020-21 to establish a one-off, time-limited Social Sector Transformation Fund to help charities adapt and respond to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and help create a strong and compassionate NSW.
“Small and medium size not-for-profits are the backbone of our community services sector and play a hugely important role in the lives of vulnerable people right across our State,” said Treasurer Dominic Perrottet.
The NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS) has warmly welcomed this commitment, noting that the fund will be used to improve digital service delivery, remote working capabilities and build capacity in the sector, and follows sustained advocacy efforts from NCOSS and other peak organisations, and the release of recent modelling showing the sector is facing increased demand.
“CCA joins with NCOSS to welcome the establishment of this fund, which will be applicable for almost all NSW ACE providers,” said Dr Perlgut.