The Federal Government has announced the formation of a new workforce agency that will target “pressure points” in Australia’s emerging patchwork economy by focussing on training and retraining workers for new jobs in specific industries currently experiencing skills shortages.


Minister for Skills and Jobs, Senator Chris Evans, announced the Government would bring forward the work of the National Workforce and Productivity Agency to advise on how best to meet the continuing demand for skilled workers and support industries and workers affected by structural adjustment.


“Today I announce Skills Connect – a range of initiatives designed to consolidate the Government’s skills programs and better target industry and worker training,” Senator Evans said.


“Skills Connect will ensure workers are assisted to make the transition from sectors in our economy which are experiencing structural adjustment to sectors in which skilled labour is in strong demand.


“It will also target the needs of employers in sectors such as resources and construction which are experiencing skills shortages.”


ACCI Chief Executive, Peter Anderson and Australian Workers’ Union National Secretary, Paul Howes, will join current members of the Board of Skills Australia, which includes Australian Industry Group CEO Heather Ridout and ACTU President Ged Kearney, to form an interim board for the Agency.


The interim board of the National Workforce and Productivity Agency will begin on October 1, nine months ahead of the scheduled start date for the new agency in July 2012.


“The interim board will focus our efforts on funding training for the Australian workforce to meet the skills demands of booming industries and providing practical, targeted training to those workers directly affected by restructuring,” Senator Evans said.


Senator Evans said consolidating the Government’s industry skills programs would result in $110 million being made available to industry for the remainder of 2011-12.


Skills Connect will provide access to the following funding in 2011-12:

• $50 million through the National Workforce Development Fund (consolidated from the Critical Skills Investment Fund);
• $29 million through the Accelerated Apprenticeship Program;
• $15 million through the Apprenticeship Mentoring Program;  and
• $15 through the Workplace English Language and Literacy Program.


Senator Evans will meet with the interim board of the Agency in coming weeks to task them with providing advice to Government as to how best to target training investment at both those sectors experiencing skills shortages and those being impacted by structural adjustment.


The Skills Australia Board, chaired by Phillip Bullock, includes Professor Gerald Burke, Ged Kearney, Dr Michael Keating AC, Marie Persson, Heather Ridout and Keith Spence.