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Economic and Fiscal Update: Key areas for Australian Apprenticeships

The Australian Apprenticeships sector, like most areas of the Australian economy, has been affected by COVID-19. The Australian Government has implemented a range of initiatives to support businesses, some targeted specifically at Australian Apprenticeships while others will support employers more generally.

There are also a range of initiatives to support job seekers and students. Here we break down some of the key areas of Government support for these groups.

Apprenticeship-specific initiatives

The Supporting Apprentices and Trainees (SAT) wage subsidy has been extended, now covering both small and medium-sized businesses, and running until March 2021. Businesses can find details of this package on the Government's Employment website, and can contact their Australian Apprenticeships Support Network provider for details about eligibility.

The Re-engagement Register supports the SAT initiative, by connecting apprentices and trainees who have lost their jobs with potential employers. The register has been established specifically to assist those apprentices and trainees who would be eligible for SAT. You can find out more and register at the NAEN website.

The Additional Identified Skills Shortage (AISS) funding has been extended with $66.7 million in additional funding, building on the 2019-20 budget measures. This funding supports employers taking on new apprentices in areas of identified national skills shortage. The National Skills Commission provides advice and updates on these current and emerging skills needs.

The Incentives for Australian Apprenticeships implementation has been pushed back from 1 July 2020 to 1 January 2020, due to the unknown effect of COVID-19 on skills needs. This simplified and streamlined incentives program intends to make it easier for employers to access financial support for taking on an apprentice or trainee. Many employers will be financially better off under this new program. Further details of these changes will be made available later in the year.

VET-related initiatives

The JobTrainer Skills Package establishes a $1 billion fund in conjunction with the states and territories. This package aims to engage job seekers, young people and school leavers into vocational education and training qualifications and short courses in areas of identified skills need.

The JobTrainer package will be implemented through a new National Partnership, with an additional $29.8 million invested to accelerate the implementation of the VET Reform Roadmap. This roadmap, developed with the states and territories, aims to simplify and streamline national qualifications, improve industry engagement, and progress the implementation of Skills Organisations.

Funding for the National Careers Institute will support the provision of dedicated advice to school-leavers and job seekers about training options related to jobs of the future.

Job seeker support

The Supporting Job Seekers Package invests $159.5 million to assist job seekers improve their employability and find employment opportunities. This support package includes funding to ensure the stability of jobactive providers, support for job seekers to access employment services, extended Regional Employment Trials, and support for mature aged workers through the Career Transition Assistance program.

This package will allow for more Australians to access support in their job search, including those who have been affected by COVID-19. The Treasurer has announced that the unemployment rate is expected to rise to 9.25%, and it is currently sitting at 7.4%. This rise in the unemployment rate effectively means thousands more Australians looking for work who will need to be accessing this support.

The extension of JobSeeker payments will continue to support those looking for work, while the Coronavirus Supplement payment will support Australians through the economic impact of COVID-19.

Business-related initiatives

There are a range of support measures for businesses, many targeted at businesses of different sizes or in different industries. Some of the key initiatives include: Temporary cash flow support for small and medium-sized businesses; changes to the instant asset write-off threshold; and the Backing Businesses Investment incentive encouraging businesses to invest in new assets.

Additionally, the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme supports lending to small and medium-sized businesses during COVID-19. This scheme has been extended until 30 June 2021.

The Government is providing support for several industries heaviest hit by COVID-19. These include childcare and higher education, aviation, aged care, arts and entertainment, and housing.

For more information on support available for Australian businesses, visit the Australian Government’s Business website.

JobKeeper

The JobKeeper payment was designed to “keep businesses in business and Australians in jobs”, and has been extended until March 2021 with several changes. This continued support will enable businesses who have been affected by COVID-19 to keep their employees, and to recommence business operations during the economic recovery. The Australian Government credits JobKeeper with “supporting job retention, maintaining employment links and business cash flow, as well as providing income support to eligible employees.”

Overview

The range of initiatives by the Australian Government have been designed to support businesses, employees, job seekers and students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there are some early positive signs pointing to economic recovery, it may take years for this recovery to be realised. Government investment has, and will continue to be, an important driver for growth.

The full Economic and Fiscal Update papers can be found here, or you can visit the Australian Government Budget website for updates.