Wednesday, May 29, 2024

JOBS SUMMIT: Councils a training ‘hotbed’ for nation’s future workforce

Treasurer Jim Chalmers has acknowledged the value of the local government sector in creating a stronger national workforce in his closing remarks at the Federal Government’s Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra.

Mr Chalmers said he was “incredibly pleased and incredibly proud to announce 36 concrete outcomes” from the two-day summit.

“Thirty-six steps that we think we can take this year, more or less immediately, and there’s about the same number of areas that we have identified for further work,” said Mr Chalmers.

He went on to thank State and Territory leaders, local government and industry for their input at the Summit.

“We cannot do all of these things that we seek to do on our own. I mentioned the State premiers and Territory chief ministers yesterday. I wanted to acknowledge, as well, Linda [Scott] and her colleagues in local government right around Australia – massive employers in their own right. But also, when it comes to so many of the things that we want to achieve together, an important part of what we’re trying to do.”

ALGA President, Linda Scott said councils were keen to be part of the solution to Australia’s jobs and skills crisis.

“I want to thank our Treasurer Jim Chalmers for acknowledging in his closing remarks that local government is central to the way forward,” Cr Scott said.

“Like the rest of our country – and the rest of the world – councils are experiencing significant skill shortages.”

Local Government stood ready to be “the hotbed of skills and training for the nation” in every city, town, remote and regional part of Australia, Cr Scott said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese with ALGA President, Linda Scott.

“We need more engineers to build our bridges and libraries, we need more planners to approve housing, we need more environmental health inspectors to keep our environment clean and green, and we need more building surveyors to keep our buildings and local facilities safe.”

“We don’t want to lose our people but we understand, as governments, our commitment to the public good extends beyond our own skill needs, and we are here to help.”

“By hiring more trainees and apprentices, we can help train Australia’s future workforce, across literally hundreds of occupations.”

She said restoring Financial Assistance Grants to at least 1% of Commonwealth taxation revenue would support local governments to invest in workforce planning and development, increasing the productivity of their workforce and helping them train Australia’s workers of the future.

“Australia’s 537 councils currently employ almost 200,000 people across 400 different occupations but collect less than 4% of national taxation.

“Many councils are heavily reliant on Federal Financial Assistance Grants, which have slipped from 1% of Commonwealth taxation revenue in 1996 to just 0.55% today.

Among the outcomes of the Summit were an additional $1 billion in joint Federal-State funding for fee-free TAFE in 2023 and the accelerated delivery of 465,000 fee-free TAFE places; a one-off income credit for working pensioners; an overhaul of Australia’s workplace relations laws including bargaining power for all workers and businesses; and changes to the Fair Work Act to strengthen flexible working arrangements and make unpaid parental leave more flexible.

Work to strengthen protections for workers who experience discrimination and harassment was also pledged, along with the introduction of 1,000 digital apprenticeships in the Australian Public Service.

Australia’s permanent migration program ceiling will also be raised to 195,000 in 2022/23 to help ease widespread workforce shortages and work restrictions will be eased for international students.

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