What does Federal Budget 2024 mean for development, education and employment across industry sectors and initiatives?

BUDGET REACTION -- from Wendy Perry of Workforce Blueprint >>

YOU WATCH THE TREASURER Jim Chalmers MP on the ABC deliver his budget speech, scan the relevant documents (budget paper #2 is the key), and draw some conclusions based upon the language, slogans, what has led up to today with various announcements, and what you know about the longer-term potential approaches being considered.

Jim and Treasury friends believe that the unemployment rate will go up to around 4.5% (unsure of the timeframe) and I [picture in this article is from Budget 2024 afternoon] believe that a % with a 3 in front of it is too low for our economy and employers to function – I’d suggest an average rate of around 4% can work noting that this varies wildly across the country.

Read this blog I wrote in February 2022 – What will Unemployment Rates With a 3 in Front of it do for Labour and Skills Shortages in Australia?

Take what makes sense for you from this summary focusing on economic development, education, employment services and entrepreneurships, higher education, industry and regional development, social enterprises, startups and scaleups, VET and working with specific cohorts. 

There is more cross correlation between portfolios so you might say that makes it more integrated, or others might think it can hide where funds are going from and to.  For each area I’ve chosen the items that might make a difference to you, your business/organisation and your work.

Here we go starting with – Education (schools), where there is support for student wellbeing and piloting new approaches to managing teachers workload, promotion of defence industry career paths, consent and respectful education, on country learning and support packages for First Nations students.

Skills (TAFE) has more fee free places, turbocharging (this is the term used by the Australian Government) teacher, trainer, and assessor workforce (sounds very familiar), TAFE Centres of Excellence supported by a National Network.  TAFE Technology Fund for areas such as electric vehicles, green energy, cyber security, and the pipeline of skills for building and construction with pre-apprenticeships (another program from the past).

Higher education (HE) gets a fair focus with wiping of student debt/loans (reasons range from people being able to borrow for property to chasing some of these debts is a waste of time and money), capped places for international students linked to providers having accommodation and housing for them, addressing gender-based violence in HE, and payments for pracs in health and education.

A goal of 80% of the Australian working age population having a tertiary qualification by 2050.  And funding to progress harmonisation, which I think means one regulator for the tertiary sector in Australia – higher education and VET combined by around 2028; also linked to a National Student Ombudsman for the sector.

There is a new $100 million Outcomes Fund could be interesting supporting place-based strategies in skills and employment, without much detail, but with an equity and gender lens.  There’s $54 million for two new paid work placement programs (Real Jobs, Real Wages and Work Foundations) for job seekers with barriers, and Regional Workforce Transition Plans but lacking information on the purpose.

Not sure if I’m reading it right but looks like incentives for many Australian Apprenticeships disappear from particular industry sectors and job roles, focusing on areas with acute – significant skills – and labour shortages.

Disability Employment Services reform and replacing, current employment which seems to wrap up a number of items, and a kind of vague-ish employment and workplace relations reprioritisation.

Language of ‘Getting the NDIS back on track’ where the spend on fraud detection is similar to the savings – I’ll leave others in the sector to comment on how that might go; and I’m not going to comment on migration either.

Access and equity, support for First Nations people, women, people with disabilities and people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) background have various measures across multiple portfolios.

Opportunities are in:

  • Net Zero, Clean Energy, Hydrogen
  • Housing, Building and Construction (domestic and not so much large infrastructure projects bar things we already know about)
  • Defence, STEM industries, shipbuilding, nuclear-powered submarines
  • Early Childhood Education and Care sectors, Health
  • Promoting TAFE and VET Pathways (yes that old chestnut!) to drive demand for VET but the products will need to be much better and more future job focused
  • Australia-France Roadmap (need to brush up on my French)
  • Water and Snow Safety Program
  • support measures for Women ($55.6 million investment in the “Building Women’s Careers” program)
  • Future Made in Australia – Workforce and Trade Partnerships for Renewable Energy Superpower Industries which seems like some reallocation from the National Reconstruction Fund but that is just my take on it.

Nothing really for small business, so perhaps lobbying here needs to be stepped up with evidence and examples, as there are industry sectors like hospitality doing it really tough in certain places.

On Employment, Jobs and Skills Australia and the National Careers Institute are okay with the progression of the five-year National Skills Agreement, and a few new items such as First Nations Prison to Employment Program (voluntary), National Indigenous Employment and Training Alliance to operate as a First Nations employment services peak body, Energy Industry Jobs Plan, and the Remote Jobs and Economic Development Program.

A line gets put through and savings for Employment come from:

  • • $47.3 million over five years from 2023–24 (and $11.1 million per year ongoing) by ceasing the Harvest Trail Services and Harvest Trail Information Service programs from 30 June 2024.
  • • $6.1 million over five years from 2023–24 (and $1.2 million per year ongoing) by ceasing the International Skills Training Courses program from 1 April 2024.
  • • $4.7 million in 2023–24 by reducing the number of grants issued in the second stage of the Automatic Mutual Recognition of Occupational Registrations scheme under the Business Research and Innovation Initiative.
  • • $58.8 million over five years from 2023–24 (and $14.0 million per year ongoing) from ceasing the Workforce Specialists initiative.
  • • $53.9 million over four years from 2024–25 (and $17.7 million per year ongoing) from reducing credits to the Workforce Australia – Employment Fund by $100 for each new participant to Workforce Australia Provider Services.
  • • $27.0 million over five years from 2023–24 (and $6.6 million per year ongoing) from reducing credits to the Workforce Australia – Employment Fund by $50 for each new participant to Workforce Australia Online.

Well that is a first take, not massively exciting, maybe the last budget before a federal election? I’d put a bet on to say ‘yes’ if I was pushed, but let’s wait and see.

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