Priority given to SMEs
The federal government said that it would accept applications from both SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) and large corporations throughout 2015. However, it made it clear that it would give priority to SMEs eyeing “growth opportunities”.
Under the scheme’s eligibility criteria, the government defined growth opportunities broadly. It included when a business entered a new market, adopted new technology, entered an export market, sought to pursue major domestic market opportunities or adjusted to structural market changes.
Businesses seeking access to the scheme would also be required to demonstrate benefits to the Australian economy and clearly identify the skills gap blocking their growth plans.
Employer co-contributions to the scheme would range from 25 to 75 per cent of training costs with larger businesses expected to shoulder a higher burden than their counterparts in the SME sector.
In a discussion paper released late last year, Establishment of the Industry Skills Fund, the government said it would consider a range of measures to assess co-contributions in order to account for “market realities”.
For instance, businesses turning over less than two-million dollars or employing less than four staff would be eligible for the minimum contribution of 25 per cent. At the other end of the scale businesses employing more than 200 employees or turning over in excess of 50 million dollars per year would qualify for the highest co-contribution rate of 75 per cent.
Applications would be conducted in rounds throughout the year on a two to three month cycle. The frequency of decisions would be “aligned to the needs of industry”.