Apprentice numbers will be boosted in Tasmania and across the country, as part of a $500 million vocational education package announced in the federal budget.
The Coalition will spend $523.3 million over five years from this year to provide a suite of funding initiatives, aimed at addressing the skills shortage experienced across the country.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg unveiled the package as part of the hand down of the budget in Canberra last week.
On Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a plan to make VET courses fee-free as he spruiked funding for Tasmania’s flagship Battery of the nation project.
Mr Frydenberg said the funding package was aimed at addressing the skills shortage, to try and get more people into vocational careers and also to support employers when they take on apprentices.
Key points to the investment in vocational education are:
- $67.5 million over five years to establish 10 industry training hubs to support school-based VET
- $44 million over four years for a streamlined incentives program for employers
- $156.3 million over three years for skills shortage payments for employers and apprentices in the top 10 occupations experiencing skill shortages, to support 80,000 new commencements.
- $48.3 million over four years to establish a National Skills Commission that will develop efficient pricing for training, informed by the work of the Productivity Commission
- $15.8 million over four years to extend the Unique Student Identifier service, currently only available to VET students, to all higher education students
- $2.2 million in 2019-20 to develop the first stage of a tertiary learning repository in 2020 to record an individual’s higher education and training records.
Tasmanian Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff welcomed the news of the VET funding package.
“We particularly welcome the additional incentives for employers to help encourage them to take on apprentices,” he said.
The Tasmanian Government already offers incentives for employers through its payroll tax scheme and small business grants, to encourage businesses to take on apprentices.
“It is also good to see a focus on improved careers advice and a continued raising of the profile and value of vocational education and training,” Mr Rockliff said.
“Importantly for Tasmania the $62.4m investment on foundation skills will help us support individuals to gain skills needed to move into further education or employment.”
Data from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research showing there were 8330 apprentices in Tasmania in 2018.
However, commencements for trade training in Tasmania has steadily declined since 2014, with 4850 in 2018, which is a slight increase on the year before.
The Examiner highlighted this issue in 2017 as part of its Pick up the Tools campaign, which aimed to shine a light on the skills shortage and how investment in TasTAFE would help address it in the state.
As part of the series, a new national partnership agreement was signed between the federal government and Tasmania, to assist the state in funding TasTAFE and other vocational education providers.
That national partnership agreement, the Skilling Australians Fund, will be boosted by $34.2 million to be divested between the six state signatories of the agreement under the new budget funding package.
TasTAFE chief executive Jenny Dodd also welcomed the “strong focus” on vocational education.
“It’s great to see a budget which has a much greater focus on supporting vocational education and training than we have seen in the past,” she said.
“As the state’s major trainer of apprentices, this is great news for TasTAFE. We train apprentices once they are employed, so work in partnership with employers to meet training needs and encourage more people to take up apprenticeships.”
Ms Dodd said TasTAFE worked closely with the state government, Skills Tasmania and industry to address training demand and skills shortages now and in the future.
The federal budget was handed down in Canberra on April 2. A federal election is also impending, to be held in May. A date for the election has not yet been set by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Have you had your say in The Examiner‘s election survey?