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Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Page: 8959

Ms BIRD (2:32 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion. What action is the government taking to boost training opportunities for job seekers and productivity?

Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I thank the member for her question. I know that she across a lifetime has been deeply interested in training, not only while she has served in this parliament but before as a TAFE teacher. As I indicated to the House yesterday, as a result of the global financial crisis, the looming US recession and slowing world growth, the government expects to see a weakening of employment growth in this country. Today, the Rudd government has announced its $10.4 billion Economic Security Strategy to strengthen the Australian economy. A key part of that package is a new investment of $187 million to create an additional 56,000 training places during the course of this financial year. This is a significant injection of new funding and it is a crucial element of the strategic approach being taken by the government to these difficult times.

We know that skill shortages continue to exist in our economy and that they are hurting businesses and hurting those Australians who lack skills and who would be more employable with additional skills. The government, through these 56,000 new training places, is strengthening our ability to assist those who have lost jobs to ensure that they can retrain in required skills; skills which employers are crying out for.

This $187 million funding injection will effectively double the Productivity Places Program from 57,000 training places to 113,000 training places. It will take the government’s total investment in training places to more than $400 million since April this year. There has been huge demand for the productivity places since they were first distributed in April this year, with more than 50,000 job seekers enrolled and over 11,000 having already completed their training. It is important to note that these places are deliberately targeted to areas of skill shortage. Of those who have fully completed their training, almost 1,000 job seekers who have been referred for training by employment service providers have already obtained jobs. This is an excellent outcome for a new program.

The new places that are being announced today are in addition to the 15,000 extra places that I announced in September. The new places will be available for job seekers who seek skills at the certificate II, III and IV levels and 1,000 places will be allocated as structural adjustment places to provide specific retraining opportunities and targeted support to displaced workers. With these new places, the Rudd government’s total commitment to the Productivity Places Program is more than $2 billion, with more than 700,000 new training places available over five years. This country has suffered a decade of neglect under the former government of our skills and training needs. The Rudd government was elected to address that more than a decade of neglect. The Productivity Places Program is doing just that with an additional new investment of $187 million today.