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    Brian Watts.

Tapping into training opportunity

By DEAN LAWSON

A prominent Horsham businessman with a background in training and education has called for a groundswell of Wimmera action and support to capitalise on a new Federal Government training package.

Brian Watts, partner with Watts Price Accountancy firm in Horsham and former Business Horsham chairman, said the $2-billion JobTrainer skills package was too big an opportunity to ‘wait for something to happen’.

He said representatives from a collective of education and training, business, the trades, social-service, health and community and other appropriate organisations including Horsham Rural City Council, ideally needed to get on the front foot and assess how to use the package as a socio-economic driver.



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“We can’t afford to be complacent. Be proactive instead of reactive in demanding to be front and centre in tapping into this opportunity,” he said.

Mr Watts made his comments in response to the Federal Government announcing its program designed to ‘give hundreds of thousands of Australians access to new skills by retraining and upskilling them into sectors with job opportunities’.

The JobTrainer skills package aims at guaranteeing support for tens of thousands of apprentices in jobs across Australia, including the Wimmera-Mallee, by subsidising their wages to keep them employed and their training secured.

The claim is that the new $2-billion JobTrainer fund will provide up to an additional 340,700 training places across Australia to help school leavers and job seekers access pre-apprenticeships, short courses and full qualifications to develop new skills in growth sectors and create a pathway to more qualifications.

Courses will be free or low cost in areas of identified need, with the Federal Government providing $500-million with matching contributions from state and territory governments.

Autonomy

Mr Watts said it was paramount, if the region wanted to move strongly forward in a post-COVID environment, that it saw the announcement as an avenue to focus on developing a comprehensive skills and training plan.

“We need to be on the front foot. There are significant deficiencies in the range of post-secondary face-to-face training opportunities in western Victoria,” he said.

“Yes, we should outline our identified needs. We are significantly under-
serviced when compared with other regional centres such as Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong.

“This all about the broader Wimmera, our 50,000-plus population’s needs.

“No doubt there has been plenty of analysis from organisations such as Wimmera Development Association and projects and schemes developed by our training organisations in this space. 

“But this announcement represents a trigger to spark us into serious collective action.”

Member for Mallee Anne Webster said JobTrainer would provide a much-needed boost to jobseekers and school leavers in her electorate.

She said the scheme would ensure people in the region had opportunities to be trained in the skills needed by the Wimmera-Mallee businesses community.

“Backing training, apprentices and jobs is all part of the government’s plan to restore our economy after the coronavirus pandemic and keep Australians in our local areas in work,” she said.

Opening doors

Mr Watts said he had seen from experience in teaching accounting and business in the TAFE and university sector, how post-secondary training opportunities in the region had transferred to fill a demand for skills in the region and help retain our rural population.

“It opens all sorts of doors, from a broad range of people who might not have had an opportunity while at secondary school, others keen to have a second crack to seek alternative pathways or simply keen to re-enter the workforce,” he said.

“At the same time it meets a significant need in providing an essential workplace skills base to get our region moving. 

“Most importantly, it helps retain our youth and others  in our region and provide a drawcard to attract others.

“We need multiple groups covering as many community and business sectors as possible to be involved, to beat the drum and alert the decision makers to our needs in western Victoria.”

Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness agreed the region needed to be well placed to take advantage of the government package as well as other opportunities.

“Working with key training organisations that help youth to get apprenticeships or traineeships in the region is going to be important in maximising our opportunities,” he said.

“We’re going to need to build things, create things, get things moving and this involves recognising opportunities surrounding trades and services.

“We want employers ready to take on apprentices and for school leavers to make themselves as employable as possible and hopefully this latest support package should help.”

Federal Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships Steve Irons said an expanded wage subsidy would more than double the number of supported apprentices and trainees.

“The Supporting Apprentices and Trainees wage subsidy will now help almost 90,000 businesses employing around 180,000 apprentices and trainees throughout Australia,” he said.

States and territories need to sign a new ‘heads of agreement’ to access JobTrainer funding.

The entire July 29, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire July 29, 2020 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!