Budget 2021: Major focus on upskilling workers amid talent shortage

Skilled migrants are unlikely to return until mid-2022

Budget 2021: Major focus on upskilling workers amid talent shortage

The Coalition government has thrown its weight behind upskilling the nation in a bid to address the glaring shortages in the country’s aged care sector.

The 2021 Budget included funding to subsidise almost 34,000 new training places for personal care workers, as part of the $652 million investment into the care workforce over the next four years. It’s just one pillar of the government’s $17.7 billion investment to reform aged care in the wake of the damning Royal Commission.

The JobTrainer scheme was introduced as part of last year’s budget and proved successful within industries like construction. Extended for another 12 months, it is predicted to create 163,000 extra low-fee and free training places.

As well as significant surplus dedicated to training, $135.6 million will be spent on a retention scheme to encourage nurses to remain within the care industry for more than a year. Elsewhere, the digital economy has also been given a training boost with 10,000 places in digital skills courses.

Read more: How wide is the digital skills gap in Australia?

Speaking to HRD, Tim Rawlings, director at PwC’s Skills for Australia, welcomed the Government’s upskilling initiatives.

“I think the budget recognises that upskilling, whether it’s for those who are unemployed or who are already in the workplace, is going to be crucially important for the economy,” he said.

Thanks to the lack of movement in the labour market, both from interstate and international arrivals, it’s more important than ever for organisations to be able to fill skills gaps internally. Rawlings said the situation facing employers in the last 12 months has shone a light on which industries rely heavily on a migrant workforce. By strengthening the skills and capabilities in those industries, Australia can address some of its labour force weaknesses highlighted by the global pandemic.

Recent modelling by RMIT and Deloitte Access Economics estimated that Australia will need 156,000 more digital technology workers by 2025, representing one in four jobs created during that period. It found that if the Australian workforce can meet those needs through upskilling or migration, it could turbocharge the economy by around $10 billion.

Read more: Australia's tech skills gap putting $10bn economy growth at risk

With billion-dollar companies like Atlassian and Canva proving the potential success for Australian-based tech companies, the Government knows addressing the skills shortage is a priority.

“If you look at the projections we’re going to have higher workforce participation and lower unemployment, but we also need to make sure we’re getting the right skills into the economy for jobs of the future,” Rawlings said.

“Otherwise, we’re going to have a war on talent, lower productivity and wage growth will be stunted. We need to make sure we’re looking across all the skills needs for a growing economy and I think that’s what this budget has done.”

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