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Skilled workers needed: Federal Budget to the rescue

By: Cameron Boggs
19 May, 2010

Feature article of the week: For the construction industry, the recently released 2010-2011 Federal Budget is focusing on building foundations for skill training. This marks a strong difference from the last budget, which tabled construction and infrastructure project pipelines.

The Rudd Government's third Budget, recently delivered by Treasurer Wayne Swan, details how it will deliver up to 70,000 new training places and support 22,500 additional apprentices, with a $661 million investment for the Skills for Sustainable Growth strategy.

To achieve this, the Government will spend $200 million over four years to provide up to 39,000 training places in areas such as infrastructure, construction, renewable energy and resources, where there is a high demand, addressing emerging skills shortages in partnership with industry.

Although youth unemployment remains high in many parts of Australia, demand in such areas has threatened to outstrip supply. The Federal Budget states the Government will cover 50% of the cost of training for large firms, and up to 90% of the cost for smaller firms.

The Government's Apprentice Kickstart program will be extended by around $80 million to deliver up to 22,500 apprenticeship positions over the next six months, and almost $20 million will go towards the modernisation of apprenticeships.

Wayne Swan says the Government had requested Infrastructure Australia to develop a National Infrastructure Pipeline, providing assurances to major investors, like super funds that are seeking confidence to commit resources to infrastructure investment.

Swan says the Government, in partnership with the states, will deliver a guaranteed training place to people below 25 for their first qualification, or to raise their qualifications. This will improve the quality and accessibility of training, strengthening the link between training and business needs.

The Civil Contractors Federation (CCF), a member based representative body of civil engineering contractors in Australia, has welcomed the strong and serious commitment to skills development via the recent Federal Budget. Of which it found the two most pressing issues impacting contractors at present to be remerging skills shortages and procurement issues.

The CCF also scored a big win in its sector with a $200 million Critical Skills Investment Fund (CSIF) which will support the resources, construction, renewable energy and infrastructure sectors. The fund is projected to create up to 10,000 training places per year, and will focus on up-skilling existing workers, and re-skilling mature age workers.

According to the Federation, the Fund recognises the impact of the resources sector on other industries, such as construction. With a strong commitment to the development of infrastructure, spanning $5.6 billion over the next decade for the infrastructure fund, financed out of the new Resources Super Profits Tax.

Chris White, Civil Contractors Federation CEO, has expressed disappointed however, as the Government has not yet made any announcements in relation to the funding being sought for Skills Centres in South Australia and Queensland under the Education Investment Fund.

The CCF provides assistance and expertise in contractor development and industry issues. It represents over 2,000 small, medium and large sized contractors who operate within a national workforce of 350,000 people.

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