NSW will be offered an extra $561 million during the next five years if it agrees to an overhaul of its vocational education training sector to produce the workers necessary to keep the economy moving.
The money will be part of $1.75 billion extra the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will put on the table for the states at the Council of Australian Governments meeting next month to encourage all states and territories to agree to the reforms.
NSW was already in line for $2.3 billion in skills funding from 2012-13 to 2016-17, which means the extra money will push that total close to $2.9 billion.
Ms Gillard has been warning that the nation needs to increase its skills base if the workforce is to adapt to the changing economy.
She has already announced that HECS-style loans – previously provided only to university students – will be made available for advanced diploma courses in fields such as information technology, childcare, aged care, engineering and telecommunications.
Other diploma students will be eligible for subsidies of up to $7800 a year.
Today, Ms Gillard is expected to expand significantly on extra inducements and reforms she wants the states to adopt when COAG meets on April 13.
These are expected to include more harmonisation of courses across Australia, more incentives to upgrade skills, and partnerships with industries seeking specific skilled workers.
A report to be released today, titled Skills for all Australians, says the government will expect “additional effort and system reform” in return for the money it is offering.
“The Commonwealth strongly believes that our training system must be aligned with industry and focused on meeting the needs of our changing economy,” it says.
“Simply funding additional training places is no longer an adequate response in an environment where international and domestic pressures are changing the way we do business.
“All governments must work to create the national training system … that more businesses can partner with to develop their workforces, where more students can get the basic qualification they need for a decent job in a higher-skills economy, where disadvantaged individuals and regions participate fully.”
Last week government modelling by Skills Australia showed a stark shortage of skilled workers in Sydney and regional NSW.
It found that by 2015 NSW would need an extra 180,000 trade or certificate workers, and 144,000 more diploma-qualified workers to meet demand. Almost 4.1 million people nationally, and 1.3 million in NSW, could be earning up to $10,000 a year more if they qualified to work in a growth sector of the economy.
The government says the extra $1.75 billion will not stop it returning the budget to surplus next financial year.
Source: National Times PHILLIP COOREY 19 Mar, 2012