Skilling Australians Fund Update

The Commonwealth Government’s Skilling Australians Fund has been given a boost with a number of Australian states and territories now signed up, including South Australia, New South Wales and the ACT. States that sign on collect a per capita share of the $50 million sign-on payment, which the Government announced in the May 2018 Budget.

In a recent LinkedIn post, VET entrepreneur Wendy Perry asked the following questions about the Fund: “Are the targets achievable? What needs to happen to make it work? How could apprenticeships and traineeships support innovation? Are there implications for VET sector capability? How will skills shortages be addressed?”

“These are all good questions,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of Community Colleges Australia (CCA).

“CCA strongly supports the additional VET funding, however we have a few concerns about the Fund: (1) It started very slowly, a full year after the first announcement; (2) what happens if there are not sufficient temporary skills visas? Connecting VET funding to high levels of migration is interesting policy question – we strongly prefer direct consolidated revenue funding that acknowledges the importance of VET as an investment in our country’s future; and (3) Australia’s adult and community education sector will miss out on the large majority of funding that this new National Partnership Agreement brings,” said Dr Perlgut.

“Only two percent of Australian apprentices study with a not-for-profit community provider. While our sector has more traineeships with just under half of NFP RTOs involved in some way, the numbers are limited for a host of institutional factors, including the cost of operating in thin regional and rural markets,” said Dr Perlgut.

Swinburne University’s Centres for the New Workforce and Transformative Innovation note that the Skilling Australians Fund does little to promote the Government’s innovation and ideas agenda: “The Skilling Australians Fund – the government’s main VET policy instrument and a welcome apprenticeship initiative – does little to transition the existing workforce through VET,” they write.

About the Skilling Australians Fund

An estimated $1.5 billion will be available from the Commonwealth for the Fund between 2017–18 to 2020–22. With matched funding from states and territories, the Fund is intended to support more apprenticeships, traineeships, pre-apprenticeships, pre‑traineeships, and higher apprenticeships. The Fund will be managed through a new project-based National Partnership Agreement (NPA) with states and territories. Financial support for the fund comes not from consolidated revenue, but from a levy on employers, including universities, to pay $1800 for overseas employees brought to Australia on temporary-skills visas.

The Australian Government Department of Education and Training has said: “Under the new agreement, each state and territory is responsible for determining the projects that are proposed to the Commonwealth for access to the Fund. Funding will be prioritised to projects in agreed target areas, including occupations in demand and industries and sectors of future growth.”

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