By Dr. Peta Skujins
Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers handed down the Federal Budget on Tuesday 9 May 2023. Along with the Budget Papers, each Government Department published a Portfolio Budget Statement which has more detail about programs and initiatives within the remit of that Department.
“The 2023–24 Budget includes initiatives across employment, skills and workplace relations that deliver on the Government’s agenda to foster an inclusive, productive economy that generates high quality skills and opportunities for people to participate in safe, secure and well-paid work, so that no one is held back and no one is left behind.” Employment And Workplace Relations Portfolio Budget Statements 2023–24 (DEWR PBS)
In this blog post we look at some of the key Budget measures related to skills, education, and employment, including key industry measures that may impact on these. Information in this document is taken from the Budget Measures (Budget Paper No. 2) and Portfolio Budget Statements. Sections in this post include:
- Australian Apprenticeships
- VET sector and skills
- Higher education
- Employment services
- Industry changes
The Portfolio Budget Statement from the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations states that the measures in the current budget “build on the Government’s substantial investment in vocational education and training (VET) in the 2022–23 October Budget and implement commitments from the 2022 Jobs and Skills Summit.”
You can visit our blog posts on the 2022-23 October Budget and the Jobs and Skills Summit to recap on their key themes.
There were two main Budget measures targeting Australian Apprenticeships, both which have previously been announced.
Australian Skills Guarantee
The Australian Skills Guarantee has been allocated $8.6 million over 4 years to 2026-27 for design and implementation. The Guarantee will mean that “One in 10 workers on these projects will be an apprentice, a trainee, or a paid cadet with additional sub-targets providing more opportunities for women.” (DEWR PBS, page 14)
The Guarantee will apply from 1 July 2024, with a focus on construction, and information and communications technology (ICT) sectors, applying to contracts of $10.0 million or more. There will be more ambitious targets for flagship construction projects valued at $100.0 million or more.
Targets in the ICT sector will be negotiated with suppliers on a project by project basis.
Targeted Support for Apprenticeships
The government has committed an additional $54.3 million over 5 years from 2022-23 to introduce a new non-financial support model for Australian Apprenticeships, which will commence from 1 July 2024. This new model will refocus the services currently delivered by the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN).
Consultation on the new model continues until 22 May 2023, with the Future Directions Apprenticeship Support Services Consultation Paper currently occurring. You can read more about this paper on our Future Directions blog post.
The aim of the new model is to “…improve the Australian Apprenticeship system, increase the diversity of the apprentice workforce, provide opportunities for women, and drive up apprenticeship completion rates.” (DEWR PBS, page 14)
In addition to the refocus of the AASN services, the Australian Government will roll out grant funding of $5.0 million over 3 years from 2024-25 to support women in the workplace and further support women in traditionally male dominated trades. This measure is designed to “increase culturally safe and inclusive workplaces, reduce the cultural barriers to women’s participation, address workplace challenges and support businesses to attract and retain women.” (Budget Papers No. 2, page 109)
VET Sector and Skills
There were a number of initiatives and measures included in the Budget related to the VET sector and skills, including foundation skills. The National Skills Agreement, currently being negotiated between the Federal and State and Territory governments, is due to commence by January 2024.
“Priorities for the NSA include building the workforce for critical and emerging industries across the country, supporting modern and responsive TAFE at the heart of the VET sector and greater equity and access to training in areas critical to the economy such as the transformation to net zero and in our care and support sector.” (DEWR PBS, page 14)
Principles for the Agreement were decided by the National Cabinet on 31 August 2022, and addition of gender equality added on 28 April 2023 following the Jobs and Skills Summit.
There has been a recent focus on foundation skills, including the Jobs and Skills Australia Foundation Skills Discussion Paper. The Budget includes measures aimed to “…reinvigorate foundation skills programs to support workers and vulnerable Australians to gain secure employment.” (Budget Paper No. 2, page 107)
The Skills for Education and Employment program will be redesigned to “provide more pathways for Australians to access training to improve their language, literacy, numeracy and digital (LLND) skills, improving their capacity to gain secure employment and experience career progression, so they can participate fully in the economy and society.” (DEWR PBS, page 15)
This redesigned program will commence from 1 July 2024, and will be delivered through both national and local place-based solutions. There is a focus on First Nations people with whole-of-community projects designed to meet local needs, delivered by First Nations organisations partnered with TAFEs, Registered Training Providers, or Adult and Community Education providers.
Additionally, the Foundation Skills for Your Future Remote Community Pilots will be extended for 12 months to 30 June 2024, with $3.5 million over two years allocated for this extension.
Additional VET and Skills Sector Measures
While many Budget measures relate to the VET and skills sector, there are three to note:
- A VET Student Loans IT System will receive $42.2 million over four years to “develop a modern, fit-for-purpose VET Student Loans IT system that will mean students and providers can rely on an up-to-date and effective system to manage loans.” (DEWR PBS, page 15)
- Two of the three Skills Assessment Pilots will be re-scoped, with an aim to improve uptake and maximise success, which will save $3.9 million over two years from 2022-23
- A Defence Skills and Workforce Taskforce will receive $3.9 million over two years to establish a defence vocational skills taskforce that will shape our sovereign industrial base and support delivery of the nuclear submarine program
In the careers space, the National Careers Institute will continue in 2023-24 with an additional $5.1 million in funding to continue its functions and to evaluate its role in supporting access to careers information. The Your Career website and School Leavers Information Kit will continue to provide the latest labour market data and inform individuals about education, employment and training pathways.
Early Childhood Education and Care Sector
The early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector will be supported through several initiatives designed to improve access to ECEC services, and to support the sector with its workforce needs. Information on these measures can be found in the Department of Education Portfolio Budget Statement (Education PBS).
The Government is providing $55.3 billion through Child Care Subsidy from 2023-24 to 2026-27, as well as support for preschool to ensure all children have access to 600 hours of preschool before starting full-time schooling. “In 2023-24, more than 1.2 million families will benefit from more affordable early childhood education and care.” (Education PBS, page 14)
There is an additional focus on First Nations children, with the Government providing “a minimum of 36 hours per fortnight of subsidised early childhood education and care” (Education PBS, page 14) from 1 July 2024.
The ECEC workforce will be supported through skills initiatives designed to build capacity, strengthen supply of skilled workers, and build the workforce. There is a focus on initiatives targeting providers and educators in regional, remote or very remote communities, and First Nations educators and services.
The measures include:
- “$34.4 million for professional development, by providing a subsidy to enable early childhood education and care services to backfill educators who attend mandatory and highly recommended training, with support for up to 75,000 educators
- $33.1 million to support up to 6,000 educators to complete their studies in Initial Teacher Education or post-graduate Early Childhood Teacher qualifications
- $4.8 million to connect up to 2,000 students with services to undertake practicum placements and strengthen workforce supply.” (Education PBS, page 14-15)
The Higher Education sector has also been in the spotlight recently, particularly with discussions around the Australian Universities Accord. This is included as a focus of the Department while shaping the future of education, with an interim report due mid-year and a final report in December 2023, however no new funding allocated to this measure. “The Accord aims to drive lasting and transformative reform in Australia’s higher education system and will include recommendations and performance targets that will improve the quality, accessibility, affordability and sustainability of higher education to achieve long-term security and prosperity for the sector and the nation.” (Education PBS, page 18)
The role of Higher Education in expanding Australia’s sovereign workforce capability has resulted in $128.5 million over four years that will deliver 4000 additional Commonwealth Supported Places in universities, with 800 of these in South Australia. This measure focuses on the STEM workforce, including professional engineering (mechanical, electrical, chemical), computer science, mathematics, chemistry, physics, psychology and management, to support the AUKUS program.
To support women in STEM, the Women in STEM Cadetships and Advanced Apprenticeships program has been extended, acknowledging that COVID-19 disrupted this program. This two year extension brings the program to an end in 2026-27.
Employment and Industry
There are a wide range of measures that will impact on employment and industry across Australia. Some of the key measures that may impact on Australian Apprenticeships and the supporting networks are included below.
- A National Construction Industry Forum will be established with representatives from key employer groups, union and government to provide advice on major challenges facing the building and construction industry. $4.4 million over 4 years has been provided for the establishment. The Forum will provide advice on “tackling key challenges facing the building and construction industry by encouraging tripartite collaboration on issues such as safety, culture, skills, productivity, and gender equity.” (DEWR PBS, page 17)
- Lung disease, specifically silicosis, is in the spotlight with the Government committing to a range of measures aimed to “address the rise of silicosis in workers and develop a national strategy for the prevention of silicosis and silica-related diseases.” (Budget Paper No. 2, page 104). This includes funding increase awareness and support better workplace practices around silica dust. This measure has been allocated $10.0 million over 4 years from 2023-24 and $1.9 million per year ongoing.
- A new agency, Y Careers, will be established to provide young people with employment opportunities in the care economy, including in the ECEC sector, and disability and aged care. $15.2 million over 2 years has been allocated to this measure.
- A National Labour Hire Licensing Scheme will be explored, with Government engaging with stakeholders to “explore the design and implementation of a national labour hire scheme in Australia.” (Budget Papers No. 2, page 109)
For more details on the budget, please visit the official site https://budget.gov.au/