Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates from the Australian Government

Education, Skills and Employment: Supporting Regional Recovery and Growth

The Education, Skills and Employment Portfolio’s purpose is to contribute to Australia’s economic prosperity and social wellbeing by creating opportunities and driving better outcomes for people through education, skills and employment pathways. The Portfolio works to ensure Australians can experience the social wellbeing and economic benefits that quality education, training and employment provide.

The Portfolio works with other Australian Government entities, industry, business (including small business), state and territory governments, and a range of service providers to provide high quality policy advice and services for the benefit of all Australians. The Department of Education, Skills and Employment (the Department) supports its Ministers through policy advice and implementation of a range of programs that deliver benefits to Australians living in regional and rural communities.

The Department has a presence across Australia including all capital cities and a regional footprint with staff located in Alice Springs, Bendigo, Mackay, Newcastle, Orange and Townsville.

As at 31 December 2020, the Education, Skills and Employment Portfolio employed 4,091 staff under the Public Service Act 1999. Of this total, 3,589 staff (88 per cent) were employed in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney, 443 staff (11 per cent) in other capital cities, and 59 staff (1 per cent) in regional areas.

New initiatives

Early childhood education and care

Improving affordability and access to child care

The Government will provide $1.7 billion through this Budget to increase support for families with children in child care. From 11 July 2022, the Government will increase the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) by 30 percentage points up to a maximum CCS rate of 95 per cent, for the second child and subsequent children aged five and under in centre-based child care, family day care, and outside school hours care. In addition, from 1 July 2022 the Government will remove the annual cap on the CCS, which iscurrently $10,560 for each child. These measures will reduce out-of-pocket costs and support parental choice for families with children in child care, including those in regional and remote areas, as well as help to reduce the workforce disincentives faced by these families.  

These measures build on the Government’s 2018 Jobs for Families Child Care Package, with the Government investing record and growing funding in child care.

Investing in early childhood education

Building on its longstanding commitment to supporting access to preschool, including in regional and remote areas, the Government will make an ongoing contribution to preschool nationally by providing $1.6 billion over four years and then $589.0 million each year ongoing from 2025–26. The Australian Government will offer states and territories $2 billion for a new preschool national partnership, covering the 2022 to 2025 preschool years. The new agreement will continue support for universal access to 15 hours of preschool each week (600 hours each year) for children attending preschool in the year before they start school. This will contribute to improving participation and better preparing children for school.

The Government will also provide $28.7 million over four years from 2021–22 to improve preschool data collection and develop a new performance framework to support this reform.

Schools

Supporting Indigenous students from regional and remote Australia

The Government will support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boarding students from predominantly remote and very remote areas to access school education and enable boarding providers to best support the wellbeing and engagement of students. Funding of $16.6 million in 2021–22 will be provided through the National Indigenous Australians Agency to assist boarding providers with a high proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students during the COVID-19 recovery period.

Supporting Australia’s teacher workforce

The Government will invest $9.8 million over four years to improve the quality of teaching to lift school and student performance, including in regional, rural and remote areas, with a focus on current and emerging areas of need. This includes $5.8 million for the Australian Teacher Workforce Data collection and $4.0 million over four years to continue the Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education Students. Ongoing investment for these programs will contribute to building a quality teaching evidence base and help to improve teacher workforce planning and outcomes.

Supporting students’ personal and professional development

The Government will provide $8.1 million over four years from 2021–22 for Together for Humanity to deliver a program to educate students, teachers and parents so they are equipped for diversity, and to foster greater inter-cultural understanding and a sense of belonging. The program operates across Australia, including in regional and remote areas. Students, teachers and parents across Australia will have the opportunity to participate in events and activities as part of the program either face-to-face or through online learning.

The Government will also provide $3 million in 2021–22 to enable people aged 14 to 24 years who require additional assistance to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh International Award. This measure will provide additional support to young people with disability, young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people disadvantaged young people from refugee backgrounds, regional and remote communities, and marginalised youth to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. The Government will also provide $1.2 million over four years to co‑sponsor the Young Australian of the Year award.

Higher education, research and international

Support for Australia’s international education sector

The Government will provide $74. million from 2021–22 to support Australia’s international education sector which continues to be disrupted by the COVID‑19 pandemic.

The Government is extending regulatory fee relief for education providers, beyond that provided in last year’s Higher Education Relief Support Package. Innovation funding for eligible independent English language and higher education providers to pivot to online and offshore education delivery, an extension of the FEE-HELP loan fee exemption to support non-university higher education providers, and an extra 5,000 short course places to be available in 2021–22 to non-university higher education providers.

Further support for this sector will also include revised cost recovery arrangements for registrations on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students. This was previously scheduled for introduction from 1 July 2021 and will now commence from 1 January 2022.

Cost recovery for the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) and the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) will also be deferred by six months to 1 January 2022.

TEQSA’s cost recovery will be phased in over three years and will include reductions to course accreditation fees for providers with less than 5,000 enrolled students (equivalent full-time student load).

There will be further consultation with higher education and skills and training providers on TEQSA and ASQA’s revised cost recovery models.

These measures provide a platform for education providers, including education providers in regional areas, to broaden their business models and contribute to a strengthened and more sustainable sector.

Skills and training

Boosting skills development across Australia

Australians in regional areas will benefit from the Australian Government’s measures to boost skills development throughout Australia.

Under the Heads of Agreement for Skills Reform, to support the future growth and prosperity of the nation, the Australian, state, and territory governments have committed to work collaboratively on improvements to the vocational education and training (VET) system. A strong skills system is critical for Australia’s long-term economic recovery.

In line with commitments, the Australian Government will continue to negotiate a new National Skills Agreement with the states and territories, to replace the National Agreement on Skills and Workforce Development.

The key priorities for the Government for a new National Skills Agreement include increasing investment and transparency under a new funding model; improving access to, and support for, Foundation Skills; improving VET data collection, use and analysis; and harmonising and modernising apprenticeships to boost completion rates, support businesses and improve labour mobility.

As part of the Australian Government’s commitments under the Heads of Agreement for Skills Reform, the Government will provide $149.2 million over four years from 2021–22 to enhance the role of industry in the VET system through the establishment of new Industry Clusters. The clusters will ensure a strong, strategic industry voice, drive collaboration across sectors by breaking down silos, address strategic workforce challenges, and improve the speed to market of qualifications to meet evolving industry needs. Strengthening the role of industry in the VET system will mean qualifications are aligned to the skills that are in demand by employers, increase workforce productivity, and get more learners into jobs.

The Government will provide $12.1 million to provide a more consistent approach to apprenticeships and traineeships and improve mobility of the skilled workforce. The measure will also support the development and implementation of systems to better connect individuals, businesses and industry to wage subsidy and apprenticeship incentives information.

These reforms will ensure VET is high quality and accessible and meets the current and future skills needs of employers and learners.

Extending and expanding the JobTrainer Fund

Regional Australians will benefit from the extension and expansion of the $1.0 billion JobTrainer Fund, signed up to by all jurisdictions under the Heads of Agreement for Skills Reform. The Government will provide an additional $500.0 million in funding to be matched by state and territory governments. The enrolment period will be extended to 31 December 2022 and eligibility will be expanded to include additional select cohorts including aged care workers. This measure will deliver around 163,000 additional free or low-fee training places in areas of skills need, with around 33,000 of these places to support aged care skills needs and around 10,000 places for digital skills courses.

This builds on the July 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update measure: COVID-19 Response Package — JobTrainer Fund — establishment.

Increasing apprenticeship commencements

The Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements (BAC) program, announced in the
2020–21 Budget, provided a 50 per cent wage subsidy to support 100,000 new apprenticeships. Reflecting its success in supporting school leavers and job seekers, especially women, looking to upskill or reskill from across Australia, including those in regional Australia, the BAC program was fully subscribed within its first five months.

Building on this success, the Government will provide an additional $2.7 billion over four years from 2020–21:

  • $1.2 billion to uncap the program and extend the wage subsidy period to 12 months from the date of commencement, as announced on 9 March 2021
  • $1.5 billion to further extend the BAC wage subsidy for an additional six months from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022 and support an evaluation of the program.

The measure will support apprenticeship and traineeship commencements as the economy continues to recover.

The Government will also provide $2.6 million in 2021–22 for the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network to deliver 5,000 additional Gateway Services to women and provide in‑training support services for women commencing in
non-traditional trade occupations. These services ensure that prospective apprentices are matched with apprenticeships or traineeship pathways suited to their skills and are supported to undertake their training.

This builds on the 2020–21 Budget measure: JobMaker Plan — boosting apprenticeships wage subsidy.

Boosting foundational and digital skills

As part of the Australian Government’s commitment to providing stronger support for foundation skills under the Heads of Agreement for Skills Reform, the Government will provide $16.6 million to expand eligibility for, and uncap the number of hours job seekers are able to access within, the Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program. The Government will also provide $3 million to expand the outreach role of the Reading Writing Hotline. The Government is also providing $4.0 million over two years from 2021–22 to support projects to better incorporate digital skills training for job seekers in the SEE program. The measure will support more job seekers, including those in regional and remote areas, to improve their language, reading, writing, mathematics and digital skills to boost their employment prospects.

The Government will provide $10.7 million over three years from 2021–22 to trial up to four industry-led pilots to develop new and innovative pathways to increase the number of Australians with high-level digital skills through cadetships. The cadetships will be in emerging and high technology digital fields, comprising formal and on-the-job training, and will be targeted at cohorts seeking to upskill or cross-skill to adapt to new digitally-advanced employment opportunities.

Supporting women’s skills, training and career development

The Government will provide $12.2 million over two years from 2021-22 to extend and expand the National Careers Institute’s Partnership Grants Program to provide partnership grants for innovative projects to support women’s workforce participation. The measure will support women across Australia, including women in regional and rural areas, to make informed decisions about education and career pathways, and enhance partnerships between industry, employers, schools, and tertiary providers to assist women into further learning and career opportunities.

The Government will also reform the Mid-Career Checkpoint program to extend support to a larger target cohort, provide a capped $3,000 training grant to participants, and extend the pilot to Victoria. The pilot period will also be extended by 12 months to 30 June 2022. The program provides free professional skills and career advice to Australians returning to work after a break to undertake caring responsibilities, with a strong focus on women aged 30 to 45 years, and is expected to support local labour market needs, including in regional areas.

Boosting youth skills

The Government will expand the Commonwealth Scholarships Program for Young Australians to enable an additional scholarship round providing up to 240 scholarships. These scholarships will support young people aged 15 to 24 years in ten disadvantaged regions across Australia to improve their skills and employment opportunities.

Better careers information for youth

Australians from regional areas will benefit from the $7.6 million over two years in this Budget to extend the National Careers Institute’s (NCI) 1800 CAREER Information Service, which supports young people aged 15 to 24 years, to 30 June 2023. Government funding will also extend and expand the NCI’s Partnership Grants Program to provide partnership grants for projects that target the needs of young people. The NCI provides careers information and support, to support informed decisions about education, training, and career pathways.

Employment

Supporting job seekers to return to employment

The Government is supporting economic recovery and jobs growth by fostering a stronger, more competitive, and resilient economy. A key element of the plan is supporting Australians, including those in regional Australia, back into jobs. This is particularly important in regional Australia which has tended to experience relatively higher unemployment and lower participation rates than major cities.

The Government will deliver the New Employment Services Model from 1 July 2022. This model will create a modern and sophisticated service, replacing jobactive and delivering an effective, efficient digital service supported by enhanced face-to-face servicing by providers where needed.

The new model will allow job-ready job seekers to self-manage their job search efforts and pathway to employment, allowing for increased investment in disadvantaged job seekers who need extra help to find a job through providing personal, tailored assistance delivered by providers. Safeguards will ensure job seekers are receiving servicing based on their needs.

For employers, including regional employers, the new model will provide better applicant matching and servicing based on employer needs, and will focus provider efforts on working with employers to support job seekers who need additional support to find and sustain employment. The Government is committed to delivering tailored support to meet the workforce needs of identified key industries and large employers, helping them connect to suitable job seekers.

The Government will invest $80.8 million in the Digital Services Contact Centre as part of the new model. The Digital Services Contact Centre will continue to support job seekers in Digital Services to self-manage their way back to employment by providing information, technical support and case management support, and access to person‑to‑person support where needed.

The Government will also redesign and streamline self-employment and small business support under the new model. The Government will continue to provide free self‑employment and small business support programs to job seekers, micro-business owners and veterans, including those in regional Australia. Self-employment and small business support will be simplified, and eligibility and places expanded to support the Government’s priority to get Australians back into work through a business‑led economic recovery.

Employers and employees in regional Australia will also benefit from the Government’s $15.6 million investment in 2021–22 to increase all wage subsidies available through jobactive, Transition to Work, and ParentsNext to $10,000. This will increase the incentives for employers to hire eligible disadvantaged job seekers registered with employment services. Streamlining wage subsidies to $10,000 will simplify arrangements for employers and help disadvantaged job seekers into jobs as the economy recovers.

Supporting youth employment

The Government is committed to providing targeted support to improve youth employment outcomes. The youth unemployment rate is higher than for the general population, including in regional Australia.

The Government is providing an additional $481.2 million over four years to expand and strengthen the successful youth employment services program, Transition to Work, to be the dedicated youth employment service in the New Employment Services Model. Transition to Work will provide intensive, time-limited assistance to young people aged 15 to 24 years who are at risk of not transitioning into employment or further education. The service will continue to help disadvantaged young people to make positive transitions from school to work by promoting work experience and training participation and providing intensive assistance to young people experiencing multiple barriers to achieving successful labour market participation.

These services will benefit disadvantaged young people in regional areas and support regional employers to recruit young employees and access support in implementing youth-focused employment pathways.

Providing additional support to job seekers

This Budget includes $15.5 million over two years from 2020–21 to provide more people the opportunity to explore and start their own small business by providing an additional 1,000 places under the New Business Assistance with New Enterprise Incentive Scheme program and the Exploring Being My Own Boss Workshop program. This will assist people, including those in regional areas, to consider whether self-employment is the right path for them and provide additional small business assistance, training and mentoring.

The Government will also amend jobactive provider eligibility for outcome payments and provide $7.9 million over three years from 2020–21 to incentivise jobactive providers to service job seekers referred from Online Employment Services and assist them into work as quickly as possible, minimising the risk of long-term unemployment.

Supporting workforce participation

The Government is providing a further $2.6 million over three years from 2021-22 to extend the Career Revive program until 2023–24 and expand the program to support women’s workforce participation. The measure will support an additional 60 regional and metropolitan businesses to develop action plans to attract and retain women returning to work after a career break.

Australians in all regions will benefit from the $213.5 million investment in this Budget to expand the Local Jobs Program to all 51 employment regions around Australia, and extend the program until 30 June 2025. The Local Jobs Program is currently in place for 25 regions, and supports regions to coordinate employment and training solutions at a local level with a focus on reskilling, upskilling and employment. This measure will assist job seekers in the additional regions to return to work more quickly.

To further support job seekers across Australia to prepare for and find employment as part of the economic recovery, the Government is providing $6.2 million to extend the Jobs Fairs program and deliver a combination of up to 26 physical and virtual Jobs Fairs across Australia between June 2021 and June 2022. Jobs Fairs help connect job seekers with employers, employment services providers and recruitment agencies and provide an opportunity for job seekers to learn about jobs, training and career options in their area.

The Budget includes $1.6 million over two years from 2020–21 to support the delivery of AgMove (Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job for short-term agricultural work). The Government has also extended eligibility to 17-year-old school leavers and modified eligibility requirements to accommodate shorter harvest seasons and encourage more job seekers to give agricultural work a try.

Strengthening mutual obligations

The Government will support the entry of job seekers into employment and reduce the likelihood of long-term reliance on unemployment benefits. The Government will provide $213 million to strengthen the mutual obligations requirements of job seekers in receipt of unemployment payments, improve detection of non-compliance with requirements, and improve jobactive provider performance in supporting job seekers to find employment.

The Government will also extend the temporary Earn and/or Learn measure for 6 months from 31 December 2021 to 30 June 2022 to align with the commencement of the New Employment Services Model. Earn and/or Learn was introduced on 28 September 2020 as part of the Government’s response to COVID-19 and provides job seekers, including those in regional areas, with more flexibility to count study or training towards their mutual obligations, helping them to become more competitive as the economy recovers.

Current Initiatives

Early childhood and child care

Child Care Subsidy

The Government is investing record and growing funding in child care. This Budget includes around $10 billion in 2021–22 for the child care system, including expected Child Care Subsidy (CCS) spending of $9.5 billion in 2021–22.

The CCS is designed to ensure greater support for those families who earn the least and work the most. Support for rural and remote families is an important feature of the payment.

The Child Care Safety Net aims to give the most vulnerable children a strong start and includes specific funding through the Community Child Care Fund to assist vulnerable or disadvantaged families and communities. From July 2021, enhancements to Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) will improve access to child care for vulnerable and disadvantaged families, through making more time available for decisions on assistance to be made without impacting families’ ACCS entitlements, extending the length of ACCS determinations for children on long term protection orders, and allowing the use of provider eligible enrolments for children in foster care.

The Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) program is delivering a total of $328 million over five years to around 980 services, of which $224 million has been allocated to more than 480 services in regional and remote areas. This represents almost 70 per cent of the allocation to all services. The $328 million comprises CCCF Open Competitive ($119 million) and CCCF Restricted Non Competitive ($209 million).

The Government allocated nearly $3 billion to support early childhood education and care services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department continues to carefully monitor the situation and has tools in place to target assistance in regional and rural areas if required. These include making local area emergency declarations and providing targeted financial support payments, available to respond proportionately to support families and services affected by future lockdowns or restrictions.

Schools

Schools funding

As at the 2021–22 Budget, the Government will provide $24.1 billion in 2021–22 and $315.2 billion from 2018–2029 under the Government’s Quality Schools Package for recurrent funding to Australian schools distributed on the basis of need. The Student Resource Standard includes a loading which provides additional funding for schools in regional and remote locations. This is in recognition of the additional costs of educating students in regional and remote schools. The loading is based on a school’s Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia score, a measure of the remoteness of accessibility of every location in Australia, as a percentage of the Student Resource Standard funding amount and the school’s size loading.

Additional support for Northern Territory schools

The Government is providing an additional $78.5 million in transition support for Northern Territory government schools from 2018 to 2027 to support school education. The additional funding is intended to support students in the Northern Territory to achieve their best, in recognition of the greater challenges they face in comparison to other states and territories.

Good to Great Schools Pilot Program

The 2020–21 Budget provided $5.8 million over four years from 2020–21 to develop, implement and evaluate a pilot program by Good to Great Schools Australia to support up to ten remote and very remote schools to expand their Direct Instruction literacy program to include numeracy and science.

Arts education

As announced in the 2019–20 Budget, the Government is investing in three school-based arts education programs: Bell Shakespeare’s National Education Program, the Song Room’s Transformational Learning through Creativity, and the Education Music Tour Bus Foundation’s F.A.M.E project (previously known as the Mobile Music Education Program). Together, the three programs cover all five elements of the Arts learning area of the Australian Curriculum — music, drama, dance, visual arts and media arts — and will promote student engagement and support students’ social and emotional wellbeing.

This funding was expected to support an estimated 786,000 students and teachers in Australian schools and support delivery of these arts programs throughout Australia, with a focus on improving access to arts education for disadvantaged schools in regional and remote areas or low socio-economic areas.

Rural Inspire Initiative

The Government is providing $2 million over three years from 2019–20 to 2021–22 to the Country Education Partnership's Rural Inspire Initiative to support young people living in rural communities to set their sights high and achieve their goals by developing leadership skills and knowledge. The initiative explores education challenges and opportunities facing rural youth and was announced in the 2019–20 Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

Teach for Australia Future Leaders Program – additional funding

The Government is providing $15 million over three years from 2019-20 to support more high achieving teachers to become high-quality school leaders in rural, remote and disadvantaged schools.

This commitment is being implemented by Teach for Australia through two initiatives:

  • An extension of the High Achieving Teachers program for an additional cohort of 120 participants in regional, rural and low socioeconomic communities in 2022 ($7.5 million).
  • A new Future Leaders Program pilot to provide innovative training and development to aspiring leaders in regional, rural and remote schools in 2021 and 2022 ($7.5 million).

Higher education, research and international

More job-ready graduates and support for regional Australia

Announced in the July 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update, the Job-ready Graduates Package will strengthen the higher education system through better university funding arrangements with targeted investment in areas of national priority, more opportunities for regional, rural and remote students, and stronger links with industry, as well as improved transparency and accountability for the higher education sector.

The Government is providing more than $400 million over four years from 2020–21 to increase higher education access and attainment for regional Australians and to support higher education providers in regional Australia to grow their local economies.

These measures respond to the recommendations of the National Regional, Rural and Remote Tertiary Education Strategy final report and includes:

  • $175.3 million over four years from 2020–21 to provide a Tertiary Access Payment of $5,000 to eligible school-leavers from outer regional or remote areas to assist with the cost of moving closer to their tertiary education institution.
  • $146 million over four years to increase Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding for regional university campuses by 3.5 per cent a year.
  • $17.1 million over four years from 2020-21 (including $0.5 million in capital funding and $13.9 million per year ongoing) to ensure all Indigenous students from regional and remote communities who meet admissions standards can gain access to a CSP at a higher education provider.
  • $0.7 million over four years from 2019-20 to gain access to Fares Allowance so eligible students can visit their homes and families more often.
  • 21 million over four years from 2020–21 (and $76.4 million over 10 years to 2030–31) to strengthen the Regional University Centres program by establishing a central support network, evaluation program and additional centres throughout regional Australia. This builds on the $15 million over four years from 2019–20 for additional Regional University Centres, announced in the 2019–20 MYEFO.
  • $7.1 million over four years from 2020–21 (and $1.8 million each year ongoing) to create a new Regional Partnerships Project Pool to support regional higher education outreach projects. The Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program has also been refocused to provide more support to Indigenous students and students from regional and remote areas.
  • $48.8 million over four years from 2020–21 (and $195.4 million to 2030–31) to establish new partnerships between regional universities and other higher education providers or industry to undertake innovative research projects.
  • $6 million over four years from 2020–21 (and $14.7 million over 10 years to 2030–31) to appoint a dedicated Regional Education Commissioner to monitor implementation of the reforms and encourage increased participation in higher education throughout regional Australia.

The Job-ready Graduates package also aims to deliver more job-ready graduates in the disciplines and the regions where they are needed most and help drive the nation's economic recovery following the COVID‑19 pandemic.

The measures commenced from 1 January 2021 and include:

  • Expanding access to higher education by increasing the number of Commonwealth supported places (CSPs), especially in regional Australia, with an additional 39,000 places provided by 2023 and an additional 100,000 places provided by 2030. The funding for this is a percentage increase on non-medical bachelor funding, based on the proportion of students at campuses in regional, high-growth metropolitan and low-growth metropolitan areas.
  • Funding increases each year by 3.5 per cent for regional campuses, 2.5 per cent for campuses located in high-growth metropolitan areas, and 1 per cent for campuses located in low-growth metropolitan areas.
  • Greater flexibility for universities to determine their allocation of CSPs to increase options and pathways for students to higher education.
  • Fairly sharing the costs of higher education between students and taxpayers, with course fees better aligned to teaching costs and lower student contributions in priority areas such as science, teaching, nursing, agriculture and mathematics.
  • $800 million over four years from 2020–21 (and $239.9 million per year ongoing) to establish a National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund to increase partnerships between universities and industry to ensure more students gain industry experiences and job ready skills.
  • Consolidating funding from existing programs to establish the Indigenous, Regional and Low SES Attainment Fund, which will encourage universities to improve higher education attainment among regional, Indigenous and low-socioeconomic status students.
  • Reducing the FEE-HELP loan fee for students from 25 per cent to 20 per cent to align with loan fee costs in the vocational education and training sector.
  • Revised indexation for the CGS to reflect the Consumer Price Index.

To support universities and students transitioning to the new arrangements, the Government will guarantee university funding at current levels for three years from 2021 and will put in place grandfathering arrangements for current students studying courses where student contributions will increase from 2021.

In the 2020–21 Budget, the Government announced it was providing $903.5 million over four years from 2020–21 to provide more places and support for students, and to establish new quality protections for the higher education system as it recovers from the impacts of COVID‑19. The funding includes measures benefitting students and universities in regional areas such as:

  • Creating disciplines of Professional Pathway Psychology and Professional Pathway Social Work to reduce the student contribution amounts for students studying units as part of a pathway to professional qualifications.
  • $251.8 million over two years from 2020–21 for an additional 50,000 subsidised higher education short course places across a range of discipline areas.
  • $298.5 million over four years from 2020–21 for an additional 12,000 CSP in national priority areas to further meet demand for higher education.
  • $19.2 million over four years from 2020–21 (and $45.1 million over 10 years to 2029‑30) including service delivery, to revise the allocation method for the $5,000 Tertiary Access Payment and to enable universities to administer the payment to eligible outer regional, rural and remote commencing students who relocate for their studies.
  • $0.4 million over four years from 2020–21 (including $0.3 million in capital funding and $1.2 million over 10 years to 2029–30) to ensure students maintain a reasonable completion rate and do not take on excessive study loads and FEE-HELP debt.
  • Extending exemptions for eligible students from paying loan fees under the FEE-HELP and VET Student Loans (VSL) programs to 30 June 2021.
  • Expanding the Tuition Protection Service from 1 January 2021 to provide services to full fee paying domestic higher education students, as well as waiving the 2020 HELP and VSL Tuition Protection Service from 1 January 2021 to further support their recovery from COVID‑19.

The Government will also guarantee CGS payments for higher education providers from 2021 to 2023 as they transition to new funding arrangements as part of the Job Ready Graduates reforms, and will maintain CGS funding caps at or above previous years' levels from 2025 at a cost of $238.9 million over four years from 2020–21 (and $2 billion over 10 years to 2029–30) and will support universities in managing the economic instabilities created by COVID‑19.  

Central Coast Health and Wellbeing Precinct

Announced in the 2017–18 Budget, the Government will provide $12.5 million over six years from 2017–18 for the Central Coast Health and Medical Campus of the University of Newcastle, to assist with the establishment of the Central Coast Medical School at Gosford Hospital. The funding builds on the Government’s 2016 election commitment to provide $32.5 million capital support for the construction and fit-out of the new Central Coast Health and Wellbeing precinct.

This measure is supporting jobs and increasing higher education accessibility and participation in the region. The medical school precinct will build regional health workforce capacity and provide access to world-class facilities to meet the health care demands of the Central Coast’s growing and ageing population.

Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships

The Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships program has provided four rounds of scholarships since 2018 to support 3,181 students from regional and remote Australia to study undergraduate, postgraduate and vocational education courses from Certificate IV to PhD level. The scholarships are valued at up to $18,000 each and assist scholarship recipients with the costs of study for the duration of their course. A further $500 is available to scholarship recipients to support an internship. Round five of this program includes 700 scholarships to be awarded for study commencing in 2021.

The program, announced in 2016, aims to improve education opportunities and attainment for regional and remote Australians by supporting students undertaking higher level tertiary study.

Creative Arts scholarships

Since the 2020–21 Budget, the Government has announced $1 million for 50 Creative Arts scholarships in 2021 valued at up to $18,000 each. The scholarships are for students from regional and remote areas undertaking bachelor level creative arts qualifications. The scholarships build on the Government’s $250 million Creative Economy JobMaker program.

Promoting regional study – Destination Australia Program

Announced in the 2019–20 Budget, the Government will build diversity in Australia’s international education sector and support students’ access to study in the regions through the Destination Australia Program. This incentive will offer scholarships worth up to $15,000 per student to incentivise both domestic and international students to study in regional Australia.

Ensuring all parts of Australia share in the benefits of tertiary education is essential in building vibrant communities and promoting better outcomes for individuals. This program will support up to 1,200 domestic and international students per annum with the costs of studying at a higher education or VET campus in regional and remote areas. This will encourage domestic and international students to consider alternative study locations, helping to spread the economic and other benefits of Australia’s higher education sector to more regional communities.

New Central Queensland School of Mines and Manufacturing – Gladstone and Rockhampton

The Government will provide $30 million over three years from 2020–21 to the new School of Mines and Manufacturing at Central Queensland University. The new school will provide training in traditional trades and emerging technologies to support Australia's growing resources sector. Construction of the school is expected to create more than 300 jobs, directly benefiting the Gladstone and Rockhampton regions. This measure was announced in the 2019–20 MYEFO.

General Sir John Monash Foundation

Announced in the 2019–20 Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the Government provided $10 million in 2019–20 to the General Sir John Monash Foundation to establish the Bob Hawke John Monash Scholarship and the Tim Fischer John Monash Scholarship programs. Scholarships will be provided from 2020 for postgraduate scholars to study at a leading international university. The Tim Fischer Scholarship will be offered to scholars from regional or rural backgrounds.

Higher Education Loan Program – encouraging Early Childhood Teachers to work in very remote areas

The Government will provide $2.4 million over four years from 2019–20 to extend the removal of HELP debt for teachers working in very remote locations of Australia to include early childhood teachers. From 2019, HELP debts for early childhood teachers will be extinguished after four years of employment in very remote locations of Australia. Additionally, indexation on HELP debt will no longer accrue for early childhood teachers while working in these locations.

This measure was announced in the 2019–20 MYEFO and builds on the 2019–20 Budget measure titled Closing the Gap refresh — Indigenous Youth Education Package to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have access to quality education.

Pilot programs to enhance collaboration between universities and industry

Announced in the 2019–20 MYEFO, the Government will provide funding over two years from 2019–20 to bring together universities and industry to partner on innovative projects. Projects benefiting regional cities include:

  • $2 million to the University of Wollongong to establish an Industry 4.0 Hub in Nowra to drive productivity and growth in areas of agribusiness and manufacturing in the Shoalhaven area.
  • $2 million to Deakin University to establish a hydrogen fuel cell and supply chain pilot program in the city of Warrnambool.

Skills and training

The COVID‑19 pandemic has had a significant impact on Australia’s economy and on the workforce in all states and territories, including in regional communities.

The Government helped businesses keep apprentices and trainees employed through the Supporting Apprentices and Trainees wage subsidy, which has supported employers to keep 129,502 apprentices and trainees in employment as at 29 April 2021.

In the 2020–21 Budget, the Government introduced a 50 per cent wage subsidy for all businesses who take on new apprentices from 5 October 2020. At that time, the Government provided $1.2 billion for the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy. This subsidy was available for up to 100,000 new apprentices and paid 50 per cent of wages paid between 5 October 2020 to 30 September 2021, up to $7,000 per quarter.  

The Government’s $1 billion JobTrainer Fund, announced in the July 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update, was jointly established with states and territories, with the Australian Government contributing $500 million to provide around 300,000 Australians with access to free, or low fee, training places in areas of skills need.

The Government will ensure continued support for students and job seekers through amendments to the delivery of existing skills and training programs in response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, including extending the termination date of the Foundation Skills for Your Future Remote Community Pilot. This initiative to trial new place-based support for adult language, literacy, numeracy and digital skills training in remote communities has been extended by 12 months to 30 June 2023.

The Government is providing $29.6 million for the National Careers Institute (NCI) to support ongoing work. The NCI will provide people with access to personalised, authoritative and accurate careers information to enable them to actively manage their career pathways irrespective of their age or career stage. The NCI will also promote partnerships between industry and education and training providers through activities such as its Partnerships Grant Program.

The Government has also provided additional support to the NCI to deliver dedicated personalised advice to young people about the training and employment options that suit their interests and prepares them for the jobs of the future.

Energising Tasmania

The Project Agreement for Energising Tasmania provides fee-free training and support to ensure Tasmania can train a skilled workforce in current and future priority areas. This includes the Battery of the Nation initiative and, more broadly, the renewable energy and related sectors.

Training is available in project and resource management, civil construction, water industry operations, and engineering. Individuals are also eligible for up to $1000 per person to cover the costs of non-tuition costs and charges, such as books and materials and student amenity fees, as required by the course.

The agreement was signed on 23 December 2019 and will provide funding of $16.2 million over five years to 30 June 2023.

Industry Training Hubs

Announced in the 2019–20 Budget, the Government is investing $50.6 million over four years from 2019–20 to trial Industry Training Hubs in 10 regions across Australia. Industry Training Hubs aim to improve opportunities for young people in regions with high youth unemployment, targeting Year 11 and Year 12 students. Each Training Hub will be managed by a full-time Career Facilitator, providing an on-the-ground presence while delivering Training Hub services.

Career Facilitators will work with and encourage young people to build skills and choose occupations in demand in their region, creating better linkages between schools and local industry and repositioning vocational education and training as a first-choice option. Through this work, the Industry Training Hubs will help eliminate persistent high youth unemployment in regional areas.

Training Hubs have been established in: Burnie, Tasmania; Maryborough and Townsville, Queensland; Port Pirie, South Australia; and Shepparton, Victoria. Further Training Hubs will be established in 2021 in Grafton and Gosford, New South Wales; Wanneroo and Armadale, Western Australia; and Alice Springs, Northern Territory.

Commonwealth Scholarships Program for Young Australians

As part of the 2019–20 Budget, the Commonwealth Scholarships Program for Young Australians will provide up to 400 scholarships to support young Australians in regions experiencing high youth unemployment, low rates of economic growth, and with low adaptive capacity. The Government is investing $8.2 million over three years from 2019‑20 in scholarships intended to assist young people into VET with strong pathways to jobs in areas of skills need. Scholarships are available in the same ten regions as the Industry Training Hubs.

Australian Apprentice Wage Subsidy Trial – expansion

Announced in the 2019–20 MYEFO, the Government is providing $60 million over four years from 2019–20 to expand the successful Australian Apprentice Wage Subsidy Trial bringing to a total of $120 million in support for small businesses across rural and regional Australia.

With this expansion the trial is benefitting up to 3,260 apprentices undertaking full‑time apprenticeships at the Certificate III and IV levels in rural and regional areas, and in areas of skills need as identified by the National Skills Needs List.

Employment

Supporting job seekers and employers

The Australian Government is committed to supporting job seekers and employers to help people find and keep a job, create their own job, change jobs, upskill, reskill and enjoy fulfilling careers. This forms an essential element of the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and social and economic recovery.

Supporting stronger employment outcomes

Announced in the 2020–21 Budget, the Government is providing funding to support Australia’s transition to a New Employment Services Model from July 2022. The Government is providing $295.9 million over four years to develop and implement the digital platform to support the New Employment Services Model.

The new model will allow job-ready job seekers to manage their job search requirements online and allow more resources to be directed to providing personal, tailored support to disadvantaged Australians who need access to crucial skills and training to break into the workforce. Regional employers will benefit from the digital platform that will streamline recruitment and decrease the time to fill vacancies by delivering better connections to job seekers and support improved matching, pre‑screening and validation of job applications.

The Government is also investing $183.1 million over three years from July 2020 to
fast-track and expand the current Online Employment Service platform to ensure
job-ready job seekers can gain access to the information and support they need to secure their own way back into work.

Further support is also being delivered through the introduction of a more flexible approach to counting study and training courses of less than 12 months toward meeting mutual obligation requirements. Eligible courses include those in identified areas of skills needs, including subsidised training in the vocational education and training system, and courses delivered under the JobTrainer Fund as these become available. Job seekers enrolled in eligible courses can have their job search mutual obligation requirement reduced to take their study or training into account.

Supporting young job seekers

To support young people to connect with employment and skills opportunities, including in regional areas, the 2020–21 Budget included $21.9 million over four years from early 2021 to connect more young Australians to youth specialist employment services and targeted assistance. This includes:

  • reducing the waiting period for early school leavers who are not in receipt of income support to gain access to the youth specialist Transition to Work service from 1 January 2021
  • providing young people receiving online employment services up to three advisory sessions with a Transition to Work provider
  • developing and delivering online learning modules to young people to help them develop job-ready skills and succeed in the labour market.

Support for relocation and for seasonal workers

The Government provided funding through the 2020–21 Budget to support people to relocate for ongoing work or to relocate to a regional area to take up agricultural work, in addition to supporting the welfare of Pacific and Timor-Leste workers:

  • $9 million to support the Seasonal Worker Programme over three years from 2020–21, ensuring the welfare of Pacific and Timor-Leste workers is protected and that Australian farmers have access to the workforce they need.
  • $17.4 million over two years from 2020–21 to assist individuals to relocate for employment opportunities, by funding modifications to the existing Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job program to make it available to individuals who temporarily relocate to a regional area to take up short-term agricultural work. Modifications will also include temporarily removing the waiting period to provide all job seekers in employment services access to assistance to relocate to take up full‑time ongoing employment in any industry.

Further measures to support regional employment

Other measures currently supporting stronger regional employment outcomes included in the 2020–21 Budget are:

  • A further $3.9 million in 2021–22 to extend the Time to Work Employment Service by a further 12 months to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners to gain access to the support they need to better prepare them to find employment and reintegrate into the community upon their release from prison.
  • $24.7 million over four years from 2020–21 to streamline the successful ParentsNext program to better support parents to plan and prepare for a return to employment by the time their youngest child reaches school age.
  • $35.8 million injection to the Employment Fund in 2021–22 to ensure all new job seekers continue to attract higher Employment Fund credits, as has been the case since July 2020.
  • $5.7 million in 2020–21 and 2021–22 to better support people to start their own business, including in regional areas. The New Business Assistance with New Enterprise Incentive Scheme program eligibility has been expanded to people undertaking part-time work, study and/or with caring responsibilities. Existing micro-businesses impacted by COVID-19 can receive assistance until 30 June 2022 to refocus their business to meet new areas of demand or to keep their business running.

These measures build upon $159.5 million provided over three years from 2019–20, in the July 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update as part of the Government’s COVID‑19 response, to support job seekers affected by the pandemic, including:

  • $115.1 million to ensure job seekers get the support they need and can be connected to employment services at the earliest opportunity.
  • $41.7 million to the Career Transition Assistance program to enable jobactive providers to more readily refer mature-age job seekers to the program.
  • $2.7 million to extend Regional Employment Trials by a further 12 months to 30 June 2021 to ensure approved projects continue in the selected regional areas.