The Critical Skills Investment Fund (the Fund) provides Australian Government co-funding for industry partnerships to undertake projects that provide training and employment opportunities in critical industry sectors. The goal of the Fund is to help increase the supply of skilled labour for enterprises in those sectors. To achieve this, the Fund will support projects that train and place job seekers into available positions, as well as those that up-skill existing workers to meet new demands.

The Fund is initially focusing on the resources, construction, renewable energy and infrastructure sectors, but will also be used to address other emerging skills gaps, including shortages created by workers leaving their current jobs to work on major new projects. Emphasis will be given to increasing the workforce participation of labour market segments that are currently under-represented in these sectors, such as Indigenous Australians, women, mature age and young people. Funding will support training for job seekers and existing workers.

The Australian Government will contribute $200 million over four years to the Critical Skills Investment Fund in order to match industry contributions to training. At least $66 million will be allocated to regional businesses and workers.  Funding will be available on a competitive basis to support any, or a combination of, the following:

•   up-skilling eligible companies’ existing workers;
•   training for unemployed job seekers and new workers;
•   training for mature age tradespeople at the Certificate IV or diploma level to allow them to move into a role as a supervisor, workplace trainer/assessor or mentor, to support young workers, including apprentices;
•   other projects that address issues identified by the National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce.

It is estimated that, over four years, the Fund will support up to 39,000 people gaining new qualifications or skill sets. Training supported by the Fund may include bridging and skill set training, as well as complete qualifications and skills recognition.

How do organisations access the Fund?

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations will call for proposals for funding through Funding Rounds.

There will be a two-stage Application process for each Funding Round:

•   Stage One – Expression of Interest (Open): To reduce the administrative burden on applicants, the EOI seeks limited information by which proposals that are likely to be most competitive for a particular Funding Round can be selected.
•   Stage Two – Application (Invitation Only): To obtain comprehensive information on workforce needs, training and recruitment solutions. An invitation to submit an application is not a guarantee of funding.

Expressions of Interest submissions for the upcoming round must be received by the Australian Government before 2pm on 8 April 2011.

The Partnership Approach

The funding program encourages employers, registered training organisations and recruitment organisations to form partnerships that build workforce capability at an enterprise or regional level. Each partnership will have a Lead Organisation that coordinates the participating organisations, submits a proposal based on a workforce development plan, and if successful, manages project resources and reporting. The proposal will need to explain how recruitment strategies and training solutions will meet the workforce needs of participating employers.

There are many different partnership arrangements that could be proposed, for example; a recruitment organisation in partnership with a registered training organisation and a large mining company might submit a plan to up-skill existing employees who do not currently have nationally recognised qualifications, and to train job seekers in qualifications that are needed for entry level positions at a particular mine site.

Employers that participate in partnerships will contribute to the funding for the training that occurs under partnership arrangements. This funding will be supported by the Government on a sliding scale, depending on the size of the organisation. For example, the Government would fund 50 per cent of the cost of training for large organisations (with a workforce of 200 or more), and up to 90 per cent of the cost of training for small businesses (with a workforce less than 100).

If you think the Critical Skills Investment Fund may be able to help your business you must act now before 8 April deadline to be considered for this round of funding! Here at The Quinn Group our experienced team of lawyers and accountants can assist you with your application and questions as well as any other legal or accounting issues. For more information submit an online enquiry or call us on 1300 QUINNS (784 667) or on +61 2 9223 9166 to book an appointment.