The federal government’s Skills for All Australians has been welcomed by the building industry. The new plan involves an extra $1.75 billion of funding to the National Partnership Agreement on Skills Reform, bringing the total funding to $9 billion over the next five years.
As noted by Wilhelm Harnisch, the CEO of Master Builders Australia, Australia is short of building and construction workers. The country will need an additional 200,000 building and construction workers over the next ten years. The reforms are aimed at boosting supply and helping ease the chronic shortage of workers in the industry.
Two of the key changes under the program are:
- Subsidised training places up to a first Certificate III for all adults.
- Interest free loans for all qualifying students. Under the program, qualifying students are those who are undertaking publicly-subsidised diplomas or advanced diplomas at approved VET institutions.
The changes effectively defer upfront fees for diplomas or advanced diplomas for qualifying students, and will motivate those studying to obtain and complete their qualifications more quickly.
The package also includes a My Skills website, which will offer a comparison tool for students seeking a training course. This is aimed at improving transparency across providers. Students will also have the added benefit of a unique student ID that allows them to log in and view their full training history.
While these changes don’t cover continuing professional development such as a CPD for builder program, they provide excellent support to those in the building and construction industries who are obtaining their first qualifications.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has suggested that the changes as a part of a strategy to chart a way to “sustained prosperity”. She also indicated that the package involves negotiations with the states and territory to allow around 375,000 additional students to complete their qualifications over the next five years.
Other factors, such as retention rates and training teacher standards, will be addressed under the reform package. Currently, only around 30 per cent of students complete a VET course in Australia.
While the industry has largely welcomed the changes, the MBA has suggested that subsidies should be broadened to cover training programs at the Certificate IV standard as many building and construction workers choose to undertake more qualifications throughout their career.