The many rounds of Budget impacts – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

The many rounds of Budget impacts – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

With a Budget of significant expenditures and an economy recovering from a major upheaval and the uncertainty of vaccines and when borders will open there will be many rounds of effects on delivery in vocational education and training. Much has been written about the Budget but here is a quick assessment of the rounds of impact.

First round – an additional $1 billion for JobTrainer up to early 2023, provided states and territories match the Commonwealth’s $500 million offer, with 33,800 places to be used for aged care training.

Second round – the record number of new apprentices and trainees employed under the Apprenticeship Boost now available to employers till March 2023 will need to be trained by an RTO somewhere.

Third round – increased funding to engage and support 13,000 personal care workers will bring more people into the Certificate III Individual Support.

Fourth round – new arrangements and additional funds to establish Skills Enterprises could bring even more qualifications to the VET sector just when the AISC is trying to trim them back, but hopefully they will drum up support from industry to use the existing qualifications and preferably to pay for some of it.

Fifth round – rebalanced public funding between higher and vocational education, although driven off the back of new funding for vocational education and little new funding for higher education.

5.5th round – some of the fifth round is wiped out because VET students will continue to pay a 20 per cent loan fee on VET Student Loans but non-university higher education students will not, at least till the end of 2021.

Sixth round –  work value case before Fair Work Commission for aged care workers may trigger enrolments.

Seventh round – essentially from July 2022, VET expenditure returns to pre-pandemic levels.

7.5th round – to give the Government due, more spending for VET is likely from the $9.7 billion war chest set aside as decisions taken not yet announced.

Eighth round – employers may start letting apprentices go once the Boost wage subsidy of $28,000 for first year disappears.

Ninth round – we don’t know whether prospective students will take up VET qualifications if wage growth is not expected until unemployment is less than 5 per cent somewhere in the future.

9.5th round – borders are open and the flood of temporary entrants may absolve all from the wage increases.

Tenth round – productivity enhancing elements are embedded in VET qualifications and we can all face post pandemic Australia with confidence.

A skills focused Budget with a flow-on for TAFE

Last week’s federal Budget provided increased investment in key areas of VET including additional training places and extended support for employers of apprentices and trainees. The major initiatives include:

JobTrainer extended by $1bn
The Commonwealth is adding $500 million to JobTrainer with an expectation of matching funds from states and territories. This brings the total investment in JobTrainer, accounting for matching, to $2 billion with funding extending into 2022-23.

No sign of new funding to support the national agreement
The Budget papers indicate that negotiations are continuing with states and territories to sign a new national agreement which will set the parameters for the transfer of Commonwealth money and replace the current National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development (NASWD). Apart from the additional JobTrainer funds there is no indication of additional Commonwealth funds to encourage signing up to the agreement.

Revitalising TAFE campuses continues in 2020-21
The last $25 million of the $50 million package for revitalising TAFE campuses is available this financial year.

Skilling Australia’s fund winds down
This fund was established when Minister Andrews had responsibility for VET and was based on fees from employers for bringing in sponsored skilled workers from overseas. Some $75.3 million is available in 2021-22 compared to $172.7 million the previous year.

Apprenticeship boost extended
The successful Boosting Apprenticeships Commencements wage subsidy to employers of apprentices and trainees has been extended to 31 March 2022, effectively extending the scheme by six months from the previous announcement. A total of $2.7 billion is committed to the measure.

Further investment in the national training system

  • $149.2 million over four years to establish industry owned Skills Enterprises, seen as a replacement of Skills Service Organisations and Skills Organisations.
  • $69.1 million over five years for data collection reform known as the VET National Data Asset which signals fundamental change to VET data collections currently facilitated through NCVER.
  •, the official national register of VET qualifications (Training Packages and accredited courses) will be redeveloped at a cost of $30.9 million over four years.
  • An expansion of the Skills for Education and Employment of $23.6 million over four years to accelerate the take up of digital skills.

Increased funding for aged care workers has a flow-on effect for TAFE and VET
The government’s response to the Aged Care Royal Commission has significant impacts on VET activity, including:

  • Up to 6,000 new personal care workers in workplaces for 2021 plus 7,000 for 2022, funded through the Department of Health.
  • 33,800 additional training places rolled out over two years for personal care workers to attain a Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing), funded through the expanded JobTrainer measure.
  • In 2023 additional training places for personal care workers to attain a Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing).

No new measures for higher education and international education
The Budget indicates that the current higher education Job Ready program has not changed, nor are there are any new measures for international education apart from recent moves for TEQSA and ASQA to move to full cost recovery from the beginning of 2022.

Youth paying a high price for COVID disruption

The VET sector has a critical role to play in helping many young people back into work and training in the wake of the COVID recession which decimated earnings and severely interrupted their careers.

That’s the message from a new report from the NCVER which examines how VET has worked in past economic downturns and where it can best help young people avoid unemployment and get their livelihoods back on track.

The report, ‘What VET can offer to COVID-19 youth unemployment recovery’, says financial crises such as occurred during COVID disproportionately affect youth, not only in the immediate aftermath, but in the following years.

“Damage to the future earnings of young Australians whose education has been interrupted due to COVID-19 has been estimated at $50 – $100 million,” the report says.

It identifies a number of ways that VET can play an important part in the post-COVID recovery for young people, namely, through vocational pathways in school, quality career guidance and work-based training.

“VET qualifications with a work-based training component have been shown to protect youth from the scarring effects of unemployment but can be more effective when their training is linked to lasting employment, with the opportunity to progress,” the report says.

It also observes that the COVID-induced digitisation of VET delivery has been a “double-edged sword”, noting that “accessibility has improved for some learners, while those with limited access to the internet or electronic devices, or who lack digital skills, have been disadvantaged.”

“High-quality online training and assessment experiences, those that support the most vulnerable unemployed youth, are resource-intensive approaches for training providers.”

New employment services to transform job placement

A new Commonwealth employment service – the New Employment Services Model (NESM) – was announced in the Budget last week and will replace JobActive from July 2022.

NESM modernises how government connects job seekers with employment, with a digital self-service along with tailored assistance. According to the Government, digital puts job seekers in the driver’s seat of their journey from welfare into work.

The Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business Stuart Robert said the new model is designed to protect jobs today and making it easier for Australians to get a job or hire an employee tomorrow, setting up Australia’s workforce for the coming decades.

The JobActive model may be one the first areas of government services to embrace the digital revolution, with a larger proportion of job seekers, especially experienced workers who may have lost their work during COVID, able to manage their transition into work via on-line platforms.

New funding is being directed to supplement the on-line strategy.

The wage subsidy available to employers to support them taking on job seekers has increased from $6,500 to $10,000 per job seeker.

There’s a drive to encourage entrepreneurs, with an extra $129.8 million to expand the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme to up to 12,000 places. Several TAFEs deliver business training in support of the scheme.

Transition to Work will expand, thanks to an extra $481.2 million, to an average caseload of around 40,000 young people, providing tailored support to help them transition into work or education, including apprenticeships or traineeships.

Local Jobs Programs which set up a jobs and skill taskforce for a region doubles the number of regions through a $213.5 million investment over four years. Each taskforce is supported by a facilitator with the aim of developing a jobs and skills plan to drive local employment. And $6.2 million will finance 26 job fairs over the next 12 months.

An additional 60 businesses will receive support to help them attract and retain women in their business through an expanded Career Revive pilot program.

Priority is being given to implementation. The Secretary of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, Dr Michele Bruniges OAM, had her appointment extended until April 2023 to oversight NESM.

The Prime Minister said the re-appointment would “allow Dr Bruniges to see through the implementation of the NESM – a significant procurement and reform piece for employment services, due to be rolled out from mid-2022 – to which the Secretary remains committed.”

These insights have been provided by the Angus Knight Group (AKG) which currently provides a range of employment services. AKG partners with TDA to assist TAFEs to work actively in employment services.

Details on the NESM can be accessed at new employment services model.

Box Hill Lilydale campus officially opened

Residents from across the Yarra Ranges will receive the training they need for rewarding jobs thanks to the opening of a new $10.2 million TAFE trade training centre at Box Hill Institute’s Lilydale Lakeside campus on Friday.

Acting Premier James Merlino, Minister for Training and Skills Gayle Tierney and Box Hill Institute CEO Vivienne King launched the Lilydale Nallei Jerring Nyerboing Trade Centre, which was named in consultation with Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Doreen Wandin-Garvey and means ‘Join Unite Industrious’.

The state-of-the-art facility features workspaces that can change and adapt to match the industry, including versatile pods that replicate real-life construction sites. It also includes classrooms, meeting rooms and other amenities.

Students will gain cutting-edge automotive, carpentry, electrical plumbing and building design training to prepare them for the workforce. Importantly, they will gain an insight into other trades to help foster more collaboration between workers onsite.

Minister Tierney said, “This new state-of-the-art facility will be a gateway for local students between high quality training and in-demand jobs in their region – it’s just another example of our unprecedented investment in the skills and training sector.”

The centre was designed to give locals better access to high quality training and to meet the region’s growing demand for skilled workers, particularly in the sustainable construction and new energy sectors.

Classes began this month – with places for up to 965 students each year, through a mix of apprentices, pre-apprentices and short-course students. There will be even more training options for locals, with stronger connections to school students.

New Victorian skills agency seeking a CEO

Recruiting has commenced for the position of Chief Executive Officer of the newly announced Victorian Skills Authority.

Weekend newspaper advertisements say that the new body, announced as part of the Victorian government’s response to the Macklin Review, will “act as a champion of, and a voice for, the Victorian training and skills system”.

The CEO will establish the new organisation and will report to the Minister for Training and Skills on the performance of the agency.

“An early key deliverable will be the inaugural Victorian Skills Plan to better guide Government investment in training delivery to where it is needed most,” the ad says.

The successful appointee will bring extensive experience in a medium or large organisation, and will have a working knowledge of industry, vocational education and government drivers and policy settings, along with the capacity to drive a future-focused reform agenda.

Applications close May 28.

See more

Queen's speech highlights UK lifetime skills guarantee

A promise to provide skills training at every stage of a person’s life has featured as a central element in the UK government’s skills reform program – and a key moment in the Queen’s speech to parliament.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee promises to revolutionise skills training and set a pathway for workforce renewal for generations.

Adults without an A-Level or equivalent qualification (akin to an Australian Certificate 3) will be offered a free, fully-funded college course paid through a National Skills Fund.

The Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, David Hughes said that after a decade of neglect and cuts, the new measures are an “important step on the journey to ending the snobbery around technical and vocational education.”

“This is the first Queen’s Speech since the pandemic began so I am delighted that further education is right at the heart of it because colleges are rooted in their communities and will be central in supporting people and places to recover,” he said.

See the Queen’s Speech

NSW to open up to international students

The NSW government is to go it alone in opening up the state to international students, possibly in the next few months.

News reports suggest the NSW government is proposing to transform student accommodation in Sydney’s CBD into quarantine lodgings to restart its international education sector.

Tertiary education was NSW’s second largest export before the COVID shutdown, generating more than $14 billion annually.

Under the plan that is to be put to the Commonwealth, the NSW student accommodation quarantine program could be running by October.

National Careers Institute opens round two grants program

The National Careers Institute has opened applications for the second round of its Partnership Grants program.

A total of $6.1 million is available with grants ranging from $20,000 to $525,000 and the maximum period for each project being 18 months.

Projects will focus on adults seeking to re-enter the workforce or change careers, particularly those disadvantaged by COVID-19, as well as students at crucial transition stages in primary school and years 7 to 10.

A total of 13 projects, worth $5.2 million were awarded in the first round.

See more

Skills training director sought for Fiji post

The Australia Pacific Training Coalition has a vacancy for a Skills for Employment and Training Director, based in Suva, Fiji.

The newly created role involves leading a team of over 20 staff as well as playing a key executive leadership role for a broader workforce of 200 staff located at APTC country offices in Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, and in-country representatives in Tonga, Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu.

It is a full-time, fixed term contract to 30 June 2022, with the possibility of extension.

Applications close 11:59pm Fiji Time, Sunday, 23 May.

 See more

Diary Dates

Year13 Expo
17 – 19 May 2021
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Virtual Skills Week
24 – 27 May 2021
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Student Voice Australia Symposium 2021
25 & 27 May 2021
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The State of Apprenticeship during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Reports from Seven Countries
26 May 2021
Virtual event
See the full program and register here

Australian Schools Women’s Leadership Summit
4 June 2021
More information

Apprentice Employment Network, NSW & ACT
Skills Conference
16 June 2021
Dockside Darling  Harbour, Sydney

VET in Schools Forum
25 June 2021
Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College, Burwood, NSW
More information

30th National VET Research Conference ‘No Frills’
Past informing the future
National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)
7 – 9 July 2021 (Online)
More information 

Journal of Vocational Education and Training
Vocational and Technical Education Keynotes Conference
9 July 2021 (online)
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TVET World eConference
International Vocational and Training Association
28 – 30 July 2021
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QLD Schools VET Conference
Velg Training
6 August 2021
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
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National Apprentice Employment Network
National Conference
17 – 19 August 2021
Grand Chancellor Hobart, Tasmania
More information soon

National Skills Week
23 – 29 August 2021
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WorldSkills National Championships & Skills Show
25 – 29 August 2021
Perth Exhibition and Convention Centre
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2021 National VET Conference
Velg Training
9 – 19 September 2021
Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre
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Australian International Education Conference 2021
5 – 8 October 2021
Gold Coast & Online
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Australian Training Awards
18 November 2021
Perth, Western Australia
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