More than half a billion dollars in training and workforce development grant, to match business investment in formal skills training, is up for grabs under the new National Workforce Development Fund, with the deadline for the first round of applications in just two weeks, on 20 September.
In this first round, small businesses that meet the application criteria should have a good chance to receive funding, says Adrian Spencer, who heads up grant consultancy GrantReady.
Companies are only eligible if they partner with an Industry Skills Council (ISC) and at least one Registered Training Organisation (RTO) for delivery of the training. Small enterprise employers are required to co-contribute a third of the total training costs, while medium enterprise employers must put in half.
The funding is available through the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for new or existing employees who are aged 17 or older, are permanent residents and meet certain other eligibility requirements. This year, the government is giving priority to applications from the aged care and construction sectors.
This program is directed at providing assistance to those companies that want to skill up their employees rather than direct to trainees, Spencer says - and one drawback is that the requirement for RTO and industry skills partnerships may be restrictive to some extent.
“Because this is a new program, many potential applicants will miss the first round of grant funding, because they’re not aware of it, so getting in on the first round can increase your chances,” he says.
But with funding split across small, medium and large enterprises, small businesses will need to be well organised to tap into this funding, he says.
Any small business that has already partnered with an Industry Skills Council or an RTO will be in an ideal position to tap into this grant money, he adds – but warns one-mand bands or start-up companies will find it more difficult.
“A lot of small organisations are just so busy and working so hard that they might not realise that this funding is available – but because the government will want to be sure they spread the funding across different sized organisations, those that apply and are eligible will have a good chance.”
But before rushing to fill in applications, small businesses should keep in mind the grant money is not free money, cautions Spencer.
“Businesses need to consider how much effort is involved in applying. Some organisations discover, a bit too late, that the effort taken to apply for the funding is not with the return in the end,” he says.
For more information and to apply visit the National Workforce and Training Fund website