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The vibe was notably positive on Budget Day, despite recording a budget deficit of $161 billion, due to the fact that the Australian economy has fared better than expected in this COVID-19 climate.

The main announcements highlighted spending to further the economic recovery and to rein in unemployment rates, which Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is keen to bring down to around 4% from the current rate of 5.6%. Budget announcements focused on achieving this goal are ones that could be important to young Australians. The announcements reflect the idea that the Government looks at skills training as a key milestone on the road to economic recovery.


Funding for skills and training


The Government has doubled its commitment to the JobTrainer Fund, supporting a total of more than 450,000 new training places to upskill job seekers and young people; investing in skills and training to fill skills shortages and to provide Australians with the skills they need to get a job.

An additional $500 million has been set in the 2021 Federal Budget to be directed to the Job Trainer program over two years. This is expected to create around 163,000 places and reduce the youth unemployment rate from the current 11.8%.

The JobTrainer program provides opportunities for jobseekers and young people to learn skills for jobs in demand. Trainees can choose to pursue diploma, certificate, and short courses in sectors such as health, aged and disability care, IT, and trades. The program operates on a state-by-state basis to upskill younger, underemployed members of the workforce.


Allocations to boost apprenticeships and digital skills


The Budget has also allocated $2.7 billion to extend the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements, a wage subsidy to reimburse businesses up to $7,000 a quarter for 12 months for taking on new apprentices and trainees.

Through these initiatives the Government hopes to fund more than 170,000 new apprenticeships and traineeships, and 2,700 places in Indigenous girls academies to help them complete school and secure work.

It has also committed to making efforts to accelerate digital skills training for job seekers with low levels of reading, writing, maths, and computer skills. Another Budget promise is that women will benefit from STEM scholarships and programs to help them to break into non-traditional trades.

In his Budget speech, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said that the Government will invest in modernising employment services, including specialist assistance for young and Indigenous Australians.


Higher education funding

The Government’s allocation for higher education has come as a bit of a disappointment to the sector as the $1 billion emergency research funding support has not been extended as expected.
There is, however, an allocation in the Budget for an additional:

  • $26.1 million in 2021/22 to non-university higher education providers for 5,000 short course places in 2021
  • $9.4 million for $150,000 grants to support online and offshore delivery models
  • $1.1 million to a PhD program that links funding to industry placements.

Reacting to the announcements, Universities Australia’s Chief Executive Catriona Jackson called for governments across all jurisdictions to work together with universities to develop a robust plan for the safe return of international students – a plan that would mean the safe quarantine of students from low-risk countries.

She said that the sector took a $1.8 billion revenue hit last year and said that they expect to lose another $2 billion this year against 2019 actual operating revenue. “With borders shut until mid-2022 the picture for universities will get worse – with significant flow-on effects for the nation’s research capacity and jobs, inside and outside universities. Australia’s university sector cannot sustain these losses without serious damage to national productivity and the country’s knowledge base.”

Overall, the Budget announcements show that some thought has gone into retraining and providing skills to Australians. In the absence of significant measures however, there is now an expectation for a separate education budget that does not punish the university sector.


Assistance for home ownership and to improve mental health and wellbeing


The Government has committed to helping another 10,000 first home buyers build a new home with a 5% deposit - an announcement that may be particularly pertinent to young Australians. It has committed to increasing the amount that can be released under the First Home Super Saver Scheme from $30,000 to $50,000. Eligible single parents will also be able to purchase a home with as little as 2% deposit.


With regard to mental health and wellbeing, the Government has acknowledged the fact that suicide is the leading cause of death in those aged between 18 and 44 and has made a $2.3 billion commitment to mental health care and suicide prevention. It will fund the setting up of more Headspace centres to support more young Australians among other initiatives.