Skilled Capital funding cuts create uncertainty

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A local business has had to cancel a Certificate II in Construction course for 25 refugees and asylum seekers on the back of their Government subsidies being cut.

In January, the ACT Government cut subsidies they provide via Skilled Capital, a funding program that helps students undertake Vocational Education and Training (VET).

According to Master Builders ACT, in some cases the Government has cut 100% of the subsidy, while for the majority the subsidy has been cut by at least 50%.

Local RTO Quality Training in Construction (QTiC) CEO/director Lynne Sheffield tells Canberra Weekly she had to cancel their course, scheduled to commence 25 February, after being informed by Skills Canberra on 14 February that they will not approve any Skilled Capital funded places for Certificate II in Construction programs this year.

Ms Sheffield says all Skilled Capital funding for Certificate II courses was cut without RTO consultation due to Skills Canberra “mismanaging their budget”.

“The funding that has been denied by the ACT Government provides for the Certificate II in Construction training fees, full time mentor, English coaching, fitness coaching and employment services.”

Ms Sheffield says she’s written to a number of ACT Government politicians outlining her situation, including the Minister for Tertiary Education Andrew Barr, but is yet to receive a sufficient response.

An ACT Government spokesperson says demand for VET has grown significantly in recent years, which has resulted in budgetary pressures.

“In order to balance the need to assist apprentices, trainees and employers in areas of high skill need with available funding, a decision was made to reduce the subsidies provided, noting areas of identified skill gaps and community need continue to receive the highest rates of subsidy,” they said.

QTiC teaches a Certificate II in Construction to underprivileged Canberrans, immigrants and refugees, kids at risk, and long-term unemployed; and is a pathway to construction industry apprenticeships. Ms Sheffield has run her RTO since 2014.

“There’s a really big need for skilled labourers, there’s a skills shortage. This training is so important,” Ms Sheffield says.

She says no longer having access to the ACT Government funding has put her in a position where she is considering relocating QTiC to NSW or establishing her business as a charity.

The Government spokesperson says they are “not in a position to comment on decisions of individual businesses”, but that training subsidies remain available to the ACT building and construction industry through multiple government funding sources.

These include the Australian Apprenticeships (User Choice) program, CIT, and the ACT Building and Construction Industry Training Fund Authority (TFA).

“More than $90 million of VET funding will be invested in the ACT in 2019-20 to address areas of skills need and encourage employers to take on new workers,” they say.

“This includes approximately $17 million for the Australian Apprenticeships (User Choice) and Skilled Capital programs.”

The funding required for QTiC is $125,000 per program. QTiC contributes approximately $50,000 per program on top of the government funding.

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