Budget 2010: Skills shortage tops Swan’s agenda

by 11 May 2010

The Federal Government tonight announced an investment of more than $660 million in training, to address the looming skills shortage in a recovering economy.

With predictions of a return to full employment (4.75 per cent) by mid 2012, Treasurer Wayne Swan said the priority has shifted from “soaking up idle capacity in the economy to building new capacity in the future.”

As demand in some industries has threatened to outstrip supply, Swan said the Government’s new training package will provide Australians with the skills needed to support a sustainable economy.

“Not long ago the Australian economy was facing skills shortages that were constraining growth and contributing to wage and price pressures,” he said. “Now as some industries and sectors are growing faster than others, labour demand will grow faster in some areas than others as our recovery gathers pace.”

The four year training package will aim to address the skills deficit in through an emphasis on vocational training. It includes up to 39,000 additional training places in sectors facing high skills demands through a $200 million investment in a new Critical Skills Investment fund. Young apprentices will be clear winners in tonight’s budget with support for around 22,500 new apprenticeship commencements through an $79.4 million extension of the successful Apprentice Kickstart aimed at small to medium businesses. Swan also announced an offer to the States and Territories to provide a guaranteed entitlement to a training place for all Australians under the age of 25 years to ensure young people have every opportunity to gain a qualification.

Large investments in vocational training systems, and a Myskills website are all part of the plans announced to bump up the economy against capacity constraints.

Adult literacy training was also a key part in Swan’s training scheme, announcing a further $120 million to be spent over the next four years for training in adult language, literacy and numeracy programs, titled the Skills for Sustainable Growth program. Additionally, a further $15.7 million will be set aside to boost the existing Workplace English, Language and Literacy program which will receive funding for an addition 9,500 places over the next four years.

About $13.1 million will be provided for the establishment of 8,000 community-based "informal learning options".

“Mercer has been concerned for some time about the aging workforce and what this will mean for future labour force supply,” said David Anderson, managing director & market leader for Mercer. “Any investment to increase labour supply and alleviate skills shortages will help support further economic growth and productivity.”

“The investment in skills in critical areas promises to help Australian businesses to have the human capital resources where they are needed most and assist in alleviating the skills shortage that has threatened our growth and productivity,” he said.

“Likewise, the focus on creating a financial services hub in Australia through additional measures, builds on an already strong financial services industry and which we expect will create more jobs and promote competition and continued innovation. Australia has built an internationally competitive financial services industry and the Government’s announcements will enhance the industry’s future prosperity.”

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