Thousands of Victorians will be trained for free under a state budget initiative to fill widening skills shortages, in part created by the government’s election-year construction blitz.
Thirty TAFE and 18 pre-apprenticeship courses will be free from January next year, under a package unveiled in Treasurer Tim Pallas’s budget on Tuesday.
He had already flagged $13.7 billion of infrastructure funding to service ballooning population and congestion. Schools, hospitals, law and order, and roads and rail spending, had also been announced prior to the budget.
“This is a Labor budget that invests in the projects that our state needs and the people we need to deliver them,” Mr Pallas said in his budget speech.
Premier Daniel Andrews said TAFE-qualified workers were “building our state and caring for our loved ones”.
“We’ll give every Victorian the opportunity to get new skills and secure a good job.”
The $172 million over four years for free certificates will target aged, mental health and disability care, as well as trades like building, construction, concreting and waterproofing.
Another $303.8 million will create 30,000 new training places, while $120 million will upgrade TAFE campuses in Bendigo, Morwell and Sale.
A further $43.8 million will give apprenticeships new learning materials and set consistent industry standards.
A new program will also offer 1700 students, at 100 state high schools, the option to do an additional year at high school to graduate with an apprenticeship or traineeship.
The opposition skills and training spokesperson, Steph Ryan, said the spending was a “desperate bid to save face”.
“Today there are 151,000 fewer students enrolled in government-subsidised training than when Daniel Andrews was elected in 2014. A majority of Victoria’s TAFEs are struggling financially, with many relying on government bailouts to stay afloat.”
More big initiatives
Metropolitan small businesses will be given a reprieve, with the payroll tax-free threshold lifted to $650,000.
Regional small businesses will get another payroll tax cut, from 3.65 per cent to 2.45 per cent.
Mental health services will get another $705 million for more rehabilitation beds, support workers, specialist facilities and six emergency department crisis hubs.
The $1.4 billion surplus had already been revealed, with the state’s total revenue for the next financial year expected to reach $69.6 billion – including $24.1 billion in taxes.
But feeding a growing state’s needs also means a growing public sector workforce and taxpayers will be shelling out $25.5 billion for government employees in 2018-19.
Debt will jump from $19.6 billion to $24.3 billion, but Mr Pallas insists it will remain at a lower percentage to gross domestic product than the Andrews government inherited.
The budget also foreshadowed greater wage growth following nationwide lows, at 2.5 per cent in 2018-19 and 2.75 per cent in 2019-20.
Shadow treasurer Michael O’Brien said the budget failed to address cost of living pressures.
“Victorians work hard and make sacrifices to live within their own household budgets but all they see is Daniel Andrews squandering their taxes through budget blowouts and waste.”
The free courses
- Certificate IV/Diploma/Advanced Diploma in Accounting;
- Certificate IV in Ageing Support;
- Certificate II/III/IV in Agriculture;
- Certificate III in Agriculture (Dairy Production).
- Certificate III/IV in Allied Health Assistance;
- Certificate II in Automotive Air Conditioning Technology;
- Certificate II in Automotive Body Repair Technology;
- Certificate II in Automotive Servicing Technology;
- Certificate II in Automotive Vocational Preparation;
- Certificate IV/Diploma in Building and Construction (Building);
- Certificate III in Civil Construction;
- Certificate III/IV/Diploma in Community Services;
- Certificate III in Concreting;
- Certificate III in Construction Waterproofing;
- Certificate III/IV in Dental Assisting;
- Certificate IV in Disability;
- Certificate III/IV in Education Support;
- Certificate IV in Engineering;
- Certificate III in Horticulture;
- Certificate III in Hospitality;
- Certificate III in Individual Support;
- Certificate IV in Mental Health;
- Diploma of Nursing;
- Certificate IV in Plumbing and Services;
- Certificate II in Construction Pathways;
- Certificate II in Electrotechnology (Career Start);
- Certificate II in Electrotechnology (Pre-vocational);
- Certificate II in Engineering Pathways;
- Certificate II in Engineering Studies;
- Certificate II in Furniture Making;
- Certificate II in Glass and Glazing;
- Certificate II in Horticulture;
- Certificate II in Meat Processing (Food Services);
- Certificate II in Plumbing (Pre-apprenticeship);
- Certificate II in Printing and Graphic Arts (General);
- Certificate II in Retail Baking Assistance;
- Certificate II in Salon Assistant; and
- Certificate II in Signage and Graphics.
Another 10 will be announced following further consultation.
Read the budget papers here.