Australian businesses can now apply for support to boost the skills of their workforce under the Federal Government’s new $476m Industry Skills Fund.

Assistant Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the Fund, which will provide up to 200,000 training places and skills advice for businesses over the next four years, was a key element of the Government’s Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda.

“This is a new way of providing support to businesses that need to upskill or retrain their employees to enable their business to grow, diversify, adopt new technologies, or take advantage of new market opportunities,” said Birmingham. “For the first time, employers will be supported to decide what training is needed in their business, and which training provider they want to work with, to boost their business productivity and competitiveness.”

Priority will be given to small and medium-sized businesses, including micro businesses, as well as to businesses looking to grow in the sectors in which Australia enjoys a competitive advantage, such as, food and agribusiness, medical technology, mining equipment, and oil, gas and energy resources, as well as in advanced manufacturing.

“The Industry Skills Fund is a key part of the Abbott Government’s ambitious program of vocational education and training (VET) reform to lift the quality of both training providers and their courses, enhancing the contribution VET makes to the employment prospects of students and the competitiveness of Australia’s economy,” Birmingham added. “In contrast, Labor wasted billions of dollars on skills programmes that failed to deliver training that led to real jobs. The era of training for training’s sake is over.”

Businesses wanting support to train workers will be required to make a contribution between 25-75% to the cost of training. The co-contribution rate depends on the number of employees, with smaller businesses receiving higher levels of support. Guidelines and more information are available at www.business.gov.au