Will the Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) save Australian vocational education and training? Probably not, is the answer.
That’s what we can glean from today’s Australian newspaper (John Ross, “Migration slump jeopardises funding for VET sector”), which reports that, “Government figures show that the number of primary skilled visas being issued fell by more than one-third in the first quarter of this financial year.”
The article also goes on to say:
Modelling by “The Australian” last May concluded that money raised by the levy would fall at least $120 million a year short of what was required to finance the SAF, even if skilled visa numbers remained at last year’s levels. The government disputes this, but has failed to produce its own modelling.
The Commonwealth Government announced in May 2017 that the new Skilling Australians Fund would supersede the National Partnership Agreement on Skills Reform, in part to deliver an extra 300,000 apprentices over the next 4 years. Priority industries include tourism, hospitality, health and ageing, engineering, manufacturing, building and construction, agriculture, and digital technologies, with a focus on careers in sectors of future growth as well as those in regional and rural areas. The program is to meet the skills needs in regional Australia, as well as expand the apprenticeships model of training. The Budget papers reported that, “Employers that sponsor migrants under the new temporary skill shortage visa and certain permanent skilled visas will be required to pay a levy which will provide revenue to the Fund.”
“CCA welcomes the introduction of a new funding program, especially one that places a high priority on the needs of regional and rural Australia,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CEO.
“However, CCA expresses concern about this funding arises from the apparent major focus on apprenticeships and trainees, which constituted only 336,500 people – out of 4.2 million VET students – in 2016, and only a very tiny proportion of what community education providers deliver in training. Furthermore, the reliance on employer levies relating to overseas migration, risks a funding short-fall – something which appears to be happening now,” Dr Perlgut said.
“CCA wants to ensure that the Skilling Australians Fund is developed and operated in such a way that it does not exclude not-for-profit community education providers from participation in funding,” Dr Perlgut said.
Image above: The Skilling Australians Fund infographic from the Australian Government Department of Education and Training Budget papers.