Growth

Applications open for $476 million skills fund

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

The federal government has announced a $476 million industry scheme aimed at helping small and medium-sized businesses get into the big leagues.

The scheme, known as the Industry Skills Fund, aims to create up to 200,000 training positions under an employer co-contribution model. Businesses would also be given access to skills advice as part of the scheme.

Announcing the scheme, Federal Assistant Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham, said the program was part of a larger strategy to make Australia’s economy more competitive.

“For the first time, employers will be supported to decide what training is needed in their business, and which training provider they want to work with, to boost their business productivity and competitiveness,” Senator Birmingham said.

Man with clipboard in factory

Priority given to SMEs

The federal government said that it would accept applications from both SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) and large corporations throughout 2015. However, it made it clear that it would give priority to SMEs eyeing “growth opportunities”.

Under the scheme’s eligibility criteria, the government defined growth opportunities broadly. It included when a business entered a new market, adopted new technology, entered an export market, sought to pursue major domestic market opportunities or adjusted to structural market changes.

Businesses seeking access to the scheme would also be required to demonstrate benefits to the Australian economy and clearly identify the skills gap blocking their growth plans.

Employer co-contributions to the scheme would range from 25 to 75 per cent of training costs with larger businesses expected to shoulder a higher burden than their counterparts in the SME sector.

In a discussion paper released late last year, Establishment of the Industry Skills Fund, the government said it would consider a range of measures to assess co-contributions in order to account for “market realities”.

For instance, businesses turning over less than two-million dollars or employing less than four staff would be eligible for the minimum contribution of 25 per cent. At the other end of the scale businesses employing more than 200 employees or turning over in excess of 50 million dollars per year would qualify for the highest co-contribution rate of 75 per cent.

Applications would be conducted in rounds throughout the year on a two to three month cycle. The frequency of decisions would be “aligned to the needs of industry”.

Find out more information

on the Industry Skills Fund here, while eligibility criteria for the scheme can be found here.

Find Out More

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