Labor promises another AU$5m to boost Australia's digital skills

Another day, another Labor election promise.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Two days out from the federal election, the Australia Labor Party has announced it would invest AU$5 million, if elected, to help establish a Digital Skills Centre of Excellence.

A statement from four shadow ministers is light on the detail, but says Labor would work with state or territory governments as an equal partner to support the development of the centre.

"As technology is used by businesses more and more to drive productivity and create stronger firms, the skills expectations of working Australians will change as well," the statement adds. "And if we want the nation to become more innovative and globally competitive, we need people with the skills to help achieve this."

According to Labor, Australians would be trained in a centre utilising the most up-to-date or emerging technology. They would also develop training platforms to help both metropolitan and regional-based students.

Selected TAFE and digital training providers would also be brought into the centre to deliver "modern skills development pathways".

Funding for the Centre would come from the AU$25 million investment Labor has set aside for the development of Regional Digital Skills Hubs.

It follows Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy Ed Husic on Tuesday highlighting Labor is focusing on "human capital" this election.

Labor is planning on cutting the federal government's Entrepreneurs Fund and the Industry Growth Centres that were established under former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda. Husic said he would prefer the funding for startups to come from the private sector rather than from taxpayers' pockets.

With Labor on Monday announcing it would create 5,000 placements at TAFE, free of charge, for tech-related courses, while also saying it would push major government IT suppliers to ensure one in 10 employees working on major government digital projects are digital apprentices or trainees, Husic again expanded upon his party's plans on Tuesday on how it would deal with Australia's skill shortage.

He pointed to the SMART Visa which, originally announced in May 2017, would see the introduction of a new visa reserved for "world-leaders" in Science, Medicine, Academia, Research, and Technology (SMART) in direct response to the Coalition's 457 visa reform.

"We're trying to get some momentum and focus on the skills shortage locally," he said. "We could fill every single vacancy here in Australia with a local and I'd still think there was a world for skilled migration."

Labor on Thursday said it is estimated 100,000 digital skilled workers will be required between now and 2023.

"Labor is determined to make sure that we get Australians skilled up and ready for the jobs ahead," the opposition party said.

Australian election 2019

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