$4.1b allocated for skills and training to address economic challenges

Skills and Training Minister Brendan O’Connor. Image credit: Committee for Economic Development of Australia

The Albanese Government is set to invest an additional $3.7 billion for a five-year National Skills Agreement to be negotiated with states and territories, in addition to $400m to support another 300,000 TAFE and vocational education and training (VET) Fee-Free places.

This investment demonstrates the Albanese Government’s commitment to working in collaboration with states and territories to ensure that Australia’s VET sector, with TAFE at its core, provides high-quality, responsive, and accessible education and training, Skills and Training Minister Brendan O’Connor said in a media release.

The funding will also help the government equip Australians with the skills they need for well-paid, secure work and fill skill gaps for employers.

Subject to successful negotiation of the NSA, the investment will boost total Commonwealth expenditure in state and territory training systems to $12.8 billion over five years.

Funding will be available in line with the vision and guiding principles approved at the National Cabinet ahead of the Jobs and Skills Summit, to support important reform areas.

The critical aspects include a coordinated effort to ensure that Australian adults lacking language, reading, numeracy and digital skills can obtain fundamental skills for jobs, career progression and successful completion of a vocational education training programme.

Funding will also support 300,000 fee-based TAFE courses in critical sectors like clean economy, manufacturing, cybersecurity, and technology.

Closing the gap between First Nations students and apprentices is also a goal, which will be accomplished through collaborating closely with First Nations people, communities, and training providers to foster skill development that works for them.

A concerted effort to assist women in enrolling in and completing VET courses and apprenticeships will be underscored, with a focus on gaining skills in higher-paying sectors, particularly trades historically dominated by males.

To date, the Albanese Government’s partnership strategy has already yielded results, with the achievement of a 12-month agreement that has produced 180,000 Fee-Free TAFE and Vocational Education Training spaces this year.

According to the government, Australia is experiencing a severe talent deficit, with the number of occupations experiencing a shortage nearly doubling from 153 in 2021 to 286 in 2022. 

Furthermore, 60 per cent of overall job growth is in jobs where VET is the primary pathway.

All governments have pledged to work in partnership to negotiate the NSA to be in place by 1 January 2024, the government revealed.