In the 2022-23 Budget, the Government has focused on, and aims to continue, Australia’s success in keeping unemployment at low levels. The Budget is intended to invest in increased workforce participation (particularly via apprenticeships and traineeships) to secure a boost in skilled labour in priority areas. Additional support for parents has also been provided.
Skills and training boost: 120% deduction for external training courses
As outlined under the ‘Small Business’ section, the Government has introduced a 120% deduction for the cost of external training courses delivered to employees by Australian-registered providers.
This measure is intended to increase skilled employment and the productivity of small businesses in a tight labour market. The increased deduction will apply to eligible expenditure incurred between Budget night (29 March 2022) and 30 June 2024.
Investment in apprenticeships and traineeships
The Government is investing $2.8 billion over 5 years from 2021‑22 to upskill apprentices.
This investment includes the introduction of a new streamlined Australian Apprenticeships Incentive System to provide support to employers and apprentices. This system will establish a pathway that backs and develops apprentices in priority trades and moves away from a complex arrangement with over 30 different payments for employers and apprentices.
Similarly, $365.3 million has been allocated to extending the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements and Completing Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidies by 3 months to 30 June 2022. $2.8 million is intended to increase apprenticeship In Training Support by an additional 2,500 places for young Australians aged 15-20 years.
Further, a new National Skills Agreement for the vocational education and training (VET) system is being negotiated, which is intended to provide each state and territory with a funding boost for skills training in priority areas. This follows the signing of the Heads of Agreement for Skills Reform in August 2020, and will replace the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development previously agreed in 2012. The previous National Agreement was the subject of review by the Productivity Commission in 2020-21.
Under the new agreement, which is still being negotiated (and has been the subject of delays), the Commonwealth is offering a $3.7 billion increase in funding with the intention that it deliver an additional 800,000 training places and lower student fees.
Supporting unemployed people getting into work
The Government is investing $52.8 million to establish ReBoot and support Workforce Australia to create a pathway to employment and training for young Australians.
ReBoot is a program targeting disengaged and disadvantaged young Australians in initiatives of up to 12 weeks to build their capability and aspirations. It is intended to provide tailored, community focused early interventions taking a variety of forms. The Budget estimates it will build skills for 5,000 young people.
Workforce Australia is the new employment service provided by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, replacing jobactive from 1 July 2022. The service is intended to be the ‘front door’ for government employment and skills services, including a new digital platform and a network of providers to deliver personalised support to disadvantaged job seekers. Around 1.8 million job seekers are expected to commence with Workforce Australia over the 3 years from 1 July 2022.
The Government has also allocated $6.6 million to expand the AgMove pilot program and extend it for an additional 6 months.
Expansion of Indigenous Rangers Program
The Government is investing $636.4 million over 6 years to expand the Indigenous Rangers Program, to fund up to 1,089 new rangers.
The program was first funded in 2007 and supports Indigenous people to combine traditional knowledge with conservation training to protect and manage their land, sea and culture, including undertaking bushfire mitigation, the protection of threatened species and biosecurity compliance.
Expansion of paid parental leave
Paid parental leave is being expanded under the 2022-23 Budget. At a cost of $346.1 million over 5 years, the Government is integrating Dad and Partner Pay with Parental Leave Pay to provide eligible families with up to 20 weeks’ leave to use as they see fit. This gives working families increased choice and flexibility in managing work and care. The income test is also being broadened to include an additional household income threshold of $350,000 to support workforce participation particularly for women who are the primary earner.
The amendments to the scheme will permit fathers and partners to access the Government’s scheme at the same time as employer-funded parental leave, in the same way currently open to mothers.
The amendments will also support single parents to access an additional 2 weeks of paid parental leave and benefit from the household income threshold test.
Support for women in trades and leadership positions
$56.2 million has been allocated to support more women entering a wider range of jobs. To boost the number of women in trades, $38.6 million will be spent over 4 years to provide wrap-around support for women commencing in trade occupations on the Australian Apprenticeships Priority List.
Building on the Government’s $147 million of investments to support gender equity in STEM, additional funding of $6.7 million is being provided to encourage women to consider taking up careers in manufacturing and the technology workforce. In particular, funds are flowing to the ‘Superstars of STEM’ program (intended to inspire the next generation of girls and young women into STEM fields), the ‘Women in STEM Ambassador Initiative’ and ‘Future You’ .
$4.7 million has been earmarked over 5 years to improve women’s participation in Australian manufacturing.
To encourage more women into leadership positions, the Government has allocated $40.4 million to various initiatives which intend to support women in progressing into board and leadership positions, including as sporting coaches and manager.