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The 2014 Federal Budget allocated $476 million to the Industry Skills Fund Growth Stream and in January 2015, the Fund was launched by the government as a key element of their strategy to streamline industry support to help boost business productivity and increase competitiveness across the economy. In a nutshell the fund aims to assist businesses that plan to invest in up-skilling and reskilling their workforces to better position themselves to take up growth opportunities in a rapidly changing economy.

The Industry Skills Fund Growth Stream aims to support micro, small and medium sized businesses to identify and access training and support that's needed to seize new growth opportunities particularly in priority sectors. The government expects that 200,000 training places and training support services will be offered over the four-year period.

The assistance on offer is independent skills advice at no charge and a training grant. This skills advice is a service targeted at businesses who need help identifying skills needs to be more competitive for growth opportunities and to maximise training outcomes. A network of skills advisors will perform a dual role under the fund. They will provide workforce advice to businesses about their skills needs and the potential training solutions, and provide an expert resource for the assessment of training proposals that do not need intense advice.

A training grant will provide co-investment for businesses looking to improve the skills of their workforce for an identified growth opportunity. The grant will support a range of training activity, nationally-recognised industry qualifications and skills sets and accredited training, but also new clusters of skills and tailored training.

The training grant will also support language, literacy and numeracy training and training required to export and engage with foreign markets as well as support services such as mentoring that are directly related to training activities co-funded under the grant. Businesses may access one or both of these assistance categories, depending on business need, eligibility and merit. The Industry Skills Fund will provide business accessing support a seamless, integrated and tailored service with minimal red tape.

The fund will focus on small and medium enterprises including microbusinesses because of their significant economic and social importance to Australia's economy. They account for half of Australian employment and small businesses represent a significant proportion of all Australian businesses exporting goods. The Industry Skills Fund will help these businesses position themselves to take advantage of new technology, innovative work practices, new and emerging opportunities, opening export markets and emerging economies.

The industry skills fund will be delivered through a co-contribution funding model. The applicant’s contribution would depend on how many Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) employees the applicant has, as follows:

  • Micro-Businesses (0-4 FTE employees) – 25%
  • Small Businesses (5-19 FTE employees) – 34%
  • Medium Businesses (20-199 FTE employees) – 50%
  • Large Businesses (200+ FTE employees) – 75%

The priority industry sectors identified for support under the Industry Skills Fund are:

  • Food and Agribusiness;
  • Mining Equipment,
  • Technology and Services;
  • Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals;
  • Oil, Gas and Energy Resources;
  • Advanced Manufacturing;
  • Enabling Technology and Service Industries that support one or more of the above priority areas. These may include freight and logistics, infrastructure related construction, ICT and professional services.

However, industries not listed as a priority may still be successful in applying for the fund. The fund will be flexible to remain responsive to strong applications which identify emerging opportunities and market needs. Access to the fund is merit-based. Unless a business has already received skills advice, eligible applications and funding proposals must address the Industry Skills Fund – Growth Stream merit criteria.

Merit Criteria

Applicants will need to clearly communicate and demonstrate how their applications meet the following criteria:

  1. How they are positioning themselves to take up a growth opportunity. A growth opportunity could occur when the business:
    1. diversifies into new or emerging markets and/or
    2. adopts new or emerging technologies and/or
    3. enters export markets and/or
    4. responds to significant domestic market opportunities and/or
    5. repositions themselves because of market driven structural adjustment;
  2. How the productivity gains created from the proposed project will deliver benefits to the Australian economy;
  3. How the proposed project will address critical skills gaps or shortages, and allow the business to be more competitive for the identified growth opportunity;
  4. The value for money offered by the proposed project;
  5. The capability and capacity of the Applicant and the training provider to carry out the proposed project.

Should you assess that your business meets the merit criteria and is in a priority industry, you can seek assistance through the Industry Skills Fund – Growth Stream via an enquiry form, speak with your usual Hanrick Curran accountant, or contact one of Our Team. For further information on the Industry Skills Fund review the Customer Information Guide or call AusIndustry on 13 28 46.