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Getting a trade for free: 350,000 to benefit from new skills plan

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Nearly 350,000 young Australians will be able to learn new skills at little or no cost if states sign up to a new billion-dollar training deal. Queensland is on board.

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The federal government is unveiling a new skills package on Thursday for school leavers and people looking for work to take up courses in areas like health care, transport, manufacturing and retail.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is backing the plan with $500 million in Commonwealth money, to be matched by the states, and has branded it JobTrainer.

“COVID-19 is unprecedented but I want Australians to be ready for the sorts of jobs that will come as we build back and recover,” he said.

“The jobs and skills we’ll need as we come out of the crisis are not likely to be the same as those that were lost.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today welcomed the announcement.

“It has been a long time coming,” Palaszczuk told parliament.

“My government will match the Prime Minister’s commitment to Queensland, dollar for dollar.”

Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said the government was days away from getting all the states and territories on board.

“I’ve had incredibly positive discussion with the skills ministers,”  Cash told the ABC.

States already signed up will start rolling out the scheme by September.

The money will make a range of short courses delivered via TAFEs and private providers free for students.

Other courses that lead to qualifications including Certificate III and IV and diplomas will be subsidised.

The new National Skills Commission will identify which specific skills shortages they should address.

While no deal has been done with the states yet, most were supportive when the idea was discussed at the national cabinet meeting last Friday.

The commonwealth funding will hinge on the states signing up to a new overall vocational education agreement.

The Prime Minister wants this new deal to link funding to teaching the skills businesses actually need, simplifying the system, better co-ordinating subsidies and increased transparency.

Morrison is also adding $1.5 billion to wage subsidies for apprentices and trainees, expanding the scheme to cover medium-sized businesses with under 200 employees and extending it for six months.

Master Builders Australia chief executive Denita Wawn wants more targeted support for the construction industry.

“The building and construction industry trains more apprentices and provides more full-time jobs than any other sector in the economy,” she said.

The initial program covered half of an apprentice’s wage for nine months until the end of September.

At the time, Morrison said it would support the jobs of 120,000 apprentices and trainees.

Government figures show the program is currently helping 47,000 businesses employing nearly 81,000 apprentices and trainees.

Its expansion gives it the potential to cover more than 91,300 businesses.

-AAP

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