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What does the budget mean for Australian Apprenticeships?

The 2017 budget has been released with several implications for the Australian Apprenticeships sector. The three most important things to consider are the new Skilling Australians Fund, the Industry Specialist Mentoring Program, and funding for universities to run sub bachelor programs.

The media release from Senator Birmingham and Minister Andrews includes information on how the budget affects all Australian education sectors: ministers.education.gov.au/birmingham/boosting-outcomes-and-opportunities-australias-education-pathways.

Skilling Australians Fund

The new Skilling Australians Fund replaces the National Partnership on Skills Reform that expires in June this year. The focus of this Fund is areas of high demand where skilled migration has been used to fill jobs, plus areas of future job growth including in regional areas. This is part of the government’s commitment to reducing skilled migration, particularly 457 VISAs, and boosting Australian employment.

The Fund will deliver the skilled workforce Australian employers need to fill skills gaps and enable their businesses to grow. (Media release, Department of Education and Training, May 2017)

The new Skilling Australians Fund replaces the National Partnership on Skills Reform that expires in June this year. The focus of this Fund is areas of high demand where skilled migration has been used to fill jobs, plus areas of future job growth including in regional areas. This is part of the government’s commitment to reducing skilled migration, particularly 457 VISAs, and boosting Australian employment.

For more information have a look at the Department of Education: education.gov.au/skilling-australians-fund

Industry Specialist Mentoring Program

The Government has recognised the importance of mentoring in improving apprenticeship completion rates. The development of a new, $60 million Industry Specialist Mentoring Program will assist vulnerable apprentices during the initial two years of their training, with the aim of keeping them in the training and ultimately completing. The mentoring program will focus on apprentices from regional areas, retrenched workers, long-term unemployed and mature-age people.

That intensive mentoring... will increase completion rates and support the supply of skilled workers into the economy. (Media release, Department of Education and Training, May 2017)

The mentors will be ‘highly skilled specialist mentors with industry experience’, and will be in addition to other structural support provided through the Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program, Trade Support Loans, and the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network. Organisations will be invited to apply to become a provider by the Department of Education and Training.

For more information have a look at the Australian Apprenticeships factsheet: australianapprenticeships.gov.au/sites/ausapps/files/2017/05/factsheet_industrymentoring.pdf

Sub bachelor funding at university

As part of the reforms to Higher Education, Commonwealth Supported Places will now be provided for sub bachelor programs in universities. These include diploma, advanced diploma, and associate degree courses at public universities. Outlined in The Higher Education Reforms Package (Department of Education and Training, 2017) is the requirement for courses to be developed with a focus on industry needs; traditionally the domain of vocational education and training (VET) providers. The courses will also need to articulate into a bachelor degree.

Our reforms to funding for… sub bachelor qualifications will ensure students have more choices than ever, allowing them to find the right provider and the right qualification to meet their higher education ambitions. (Media release, Department of Education and Training, May 2017)

The concern for the VET sector of this new arrangement is the channelling of students into universities rather than vocational
education providers. For students considering undertaking an apprenticeship, especially a higher-level apprenticeship, the ability to undertake a course that articulates into a bachelor program is positive. It will be interesting going forward to see how the universities work with industry to offer high quality courses that meet these needs.

For more information see The Higher Education Reforms Package: docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/ed17-0138_-_he_-_glossy_budget_report_acc.pdf

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