Monday, 9 August 2021
Questions without Notice
Vocational Education and Training
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Cash. Can the minister advise the Senate how the Liberal and National government plan is supporting Australians to gain skills through vocational education and training as a part of our economic recovery from COVID-19?
I thank Senator Rennick for the question. A strong vocational education and training system is critical not only for Australia's long-term recovery from COVID-19 but also to support our future growth and our future prosperity. As a former skills minister myself, I'm always happy to hear about Australians taking up the opportunities that are presented by vocational education and training in this country. Without a doubt, certainly from the people I've spoken to, it's a rewarding pathway and it leads to rewarding careers. The Morrison government is committed to delivering a world-class vocational education and training system for all Australians. This is a system which will ensure that, as a country, we have the appropriate skills that we need, both now and into the future.
Last year, the Morrison government provided the biggest investment into skills funding, with almost $6 billion put into skills funding in Australia over the year. This included COVID-19 support measures like the Supporting Apprentices and Trainees wage subsidy, which, I'm pleased to advise, has helped keep around 140,000 apprentices and trainees in jobs across Australia. As we know, in an economic downturn, the first people to go are normally the apprentices and the trainees, but putting in place the Supporting Apprentices and Trainees wage subsidy has ensured that we've kept around 140,000 of them on the job, on the tools, where we need them to be. As you know, we also partnered with the states and territories, and we introduced measures including JobTrainer and the boosting apprentices and trainees wage subsidy. This measure is now helping Australians get the skills that they need, but it's also helping Australian employers take on into their businesses a new apprentice or trainee. Again, it's all about giving us the skills that we need.
The Morrison government's Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy, which was introduced, as we know, last year, has already supported over 180,000 apprentices and trainees across Australia. That's 180,000 Australians who are now in apprenticeships or traineeships as a result of the wage subsidy that the Morrison government put in place. In terms of the wage subsidy itself, it's a 50 per cent wage subsidy, up to $7,000 per quarter, and a business is able to access this subsidy right up until March 2022—that is, March next year. They can take on a new apprentice or trainee, access the wage subsidy, and then they get that for a 12-month period. Again, this is all about putting in place those policies which enable employers who are seeking to bring on a new apprentice or trainee into their business to do just that.
Again, last year the Morrison government, as I've said, partnered with state and territory governments and we established the $1 billion JobTrainer Fund. The Commonwealth government provided $500 million and this was matched by contributions from state and territory governments. The initial investment will provide over 300,000 additional training places, and these are free or low fee. The key to the success of JobTrainer is that we worked with the states and territories to ensure that these places are in identified areas of labour market demand—for example, health, age care, disability care, IT and trades—for jobseekers and for young people, including school leavers. Then, as part of the 2021-22 budget, the Australian government announced it would commit a further $500 million, again to be matched by the states and territories, and we are now expanding the JobTrainer Fund by 163,000 places.