The $525 million Skills Package was a major focus of the Treasurer’s Budget, with the announcement of a number of initiatives to introduce 80,000 new apprentices, provide payments of up to $8,000 per apprentice, and create 10 new training hubs in regional Australia.
During Senate Estimates after this Budget announcement, there was much discussion as to how the Government’s plans would be funded over the next four years. It was revealed that the Skilling Australian Fund would contribute $463 million, while the shortfall would be made up of new funding, or funding diverted from another training program.
The Department of Jobs and Small Business further advised that while the Skilling Australians Fund was initially estimated to reach $1.2 billion over 4 years, this figure has been revised downwards by $574.3 million, due to the reduced number of applications.
It is also interesting to consider the estimated funding that will be available to the various states and territories to carry out their skills training projects in 2019-20:
The allocation to Victoria and Queensland is nil, as these states did not enter into a bilateral training agreement with the Commonwealth Government.
Employers will be pleased that there was no proposal to increase the SAF levy, despite the shortfall in contributions. On the other hand, there has been no response to calls by the industry for refund provisions to be relaxed, or for the levy to be payable at time of decision, rather than upfront as it currently stands.
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