Billion dollar training ways to rebuild the workforce

There’s $1.2bn in the budget for new apprentice and trainee wage subsidies

Employment and Skills Minister Michaelia Cash has announced the scheme. The subsidy is $7000 max a quarter through to September next for employers to take on 100 000 new starts in any industry. It’s on top of the existing support scheme.

The new funding is less endorsed than enthusiastically applauded by private training providers peak lobby, ITECA; “this is exactly the boost that is required to get more people into apprenticeships and traineeships, giving them the skills that will set them on the path for a new career,” CEO Troy Williams says.

The National Apprentice Employment Network is also pleased with the plan as addressing pandemic damage. “There has been a sharp fall-off in apprentices and trainees in work during the COVID-19 crisis and there has also been a slowing of commencements as businesses have put their plans on hold,” says CEO Dianne Dayhew.

And there’s a case for extending the approach

Work-study subsidies also appeal to Peter Dawkins, (VC, Victoria U) David Lloyd, (VC, Uni SA) and Peter Hurley (VU) who propose a national job cadet programme, “to avert an escalating labour market crisis for young people in Australia.”

They propose a model of students combining work and study at diploma and above qualification level, based on wage subsidies from government. As to what they should study, the authors suggest a range, from existing programmes to, “bespoke courses that combine training and employment using a flexible delivery mode.”

The proposal’s initial objective is to prevent the pandemic recession preventing young people entering the workforce now and having diminished long-term employment opportunities. However, they suggest the scheme could also apply to people of all ages.

They propose 50 000 cadetships with wage subsidies of $14 000 and $28 000 – for a total $1bn cost to government.  And they call on the commonwealth and state governments to establish processes to set up a scheme, through National Cabinet.

Ultimately, it’s about individuals

Ben Hamer and Timothy Bednall (Swinburne U) suggest an even broader view of ways to generate employment – by expanding the national skills base.

“Governments, businesses, and education institutions will need to work together to help their people adjust to the disruptive impact of new technologies.”

They specify four specific challenges; * capacity building, using pandemic caused employment down-time to help individuals build people-skills, * supporting individuals into community learning, * moving workers with transferrable skills from flat to in-demand areas of the economy and * using generic abilities to switch occupations.

Accomplishing this would involve education providers, government and industry; “given that the labour market is no longer clearly delineated along traditional lines between supply (education), demand (industry), and supported by policy (government), the respective parties must cooperate and collaborate to drive a concerted skills agenda.”

But ultimately, it is up to individuals: “to take control of their own re-skilling and up-skilling effort. This must be underpinned by a broader attitude towards self-directed and life-long learning, for the most successful employee in the future of work will not be the smartest person, but the individual who can find out what they need to know, when they need it, and from who.”