The construction industry welcomes budget – Image: Pexels
  • Building and construction industry welcomes the federal budget
  • Budget includes funding for a construction forum
  • Missed opportunity to boost vocational training

The federal budget’s investment in the construction and infrastructure industry has been met with optimism by the industry.

While the budget is considered a placeholder pending the 90-day review of the $120 billion Infrastructure Investment Program (IIP), key details have been released, including funding to establish a National Construction Industry Forum (NCIF), and $687 million over six years for a national approach to sustainable urban development.

Australian Constructors Association CEO Jon Davies welcomed the investment and said that the NCIF will provide a tripartite platform for the construction industry to transform and emerge as a worldwide leader and industry of choice for future generations of workers.

“The NCIF marks a significant step forward for the construction industry, enabling greater collaboration and cooperation among industry stakeholders to drive positive change,” said Davies.

Leaving the past behind

Davies said that to address the industry’s challenges, the government, industry, and unions must leave behind the baggage of history.

“The members of the Australian Constructors Association acknowledge that there is much they can do to improve the industry without waiting for others.”

Jon Davies, CEO, Australian Constructors Association

“At the Future of Construction Summit last week, the Australian Constructors Association announced a pledge to improve the culture of the construction by embedding flexibility on all member projects, achieving the WGEA Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation across 75% of members by 2028 and attracting a new wave of talent to sustain the industry.”

He said the pledge represents just the beginning of their efforts to improve the culture and sustainability of the construction industry, which is crucial for providing the nation with social and economic enabling infrastructure.

“This commitment complements our active participation in the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce.”

Missed opportunity for vocational training

Meanwhile, the increased level of investment in training has been met with mixed reactions from the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA).

The budget committed an additional $4.1 billion upon striking a five-year National Skills Agreement with states and territories. This will provide better access to vocational education and training (VET), with TAFE at the centre.

This includes over $400 million to support 300,000 TAFE and VET places to become fee-free.

While the council welcomed the increased level of investment in training, ITECA argued that the system needed to prioritise students to be effective.

“Framed amidst a challenging business environment, this budget needed to put students at the centre of skills funding decisions. In failing to do so, an opportunity was missed,” said Troy Williams, Chief Executive of ITECA.

Williams said the budget’s funding commitments that preference public providers are limiting, as they do not offer students the full range of courses needed to address the skills shortage.

ITECA is working with Australian, state, and territory governments to create a student-centric skills funding arrangement.

“Students want the government to back their decision to study with the provider of their choice.”

“ITECA believes that this is necessary to maximize the impact of the budget’s investment in skills and support the growth of Australia’s workforce.”

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