Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy, has announced reforms to make skills training more accessible, flexible and affordable for Pacific Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme workers and their Australian employers.
The changes will ensure that more Australian businesses can access funding to train PALM scheme workers and support employers to partner with training organisations to develop courses specific to their workforce needs.
Through an expanded range of eligible training courses, more Pacific workers will be able to undertake training towards formal qualifications – paving the way for workers to take on higher paying roles and contribute to the economic development of their countries upon their return home.
The Albanese Government will now fund up to half the cost of full qualifications, with employers also contributing.
The announcement was made at the Hillwood Berries Farm in Tasmania – a long-term PALM scheme approved employer with more than 450 seasonal and longer-term Pacific and Timorese workers.
Next month, a PALM scheme Regional Accelerator Forum event in Launceston will bring together employers and community groups from across Tasmania, along with government representatives from Australia and PALM scheme participating countries to discuss how the community can work together to support PALM scheme workers.
Across Australia, there are more than 35,000 PALM scheme workers, filling workforce shortages in regional Australia, and sending earnings to the Pacific and Timor-Leste.
In a region where more than one third of people live on less than $1,000 (US$675) per year, long term PALM workers send home an average of $15,000 (US$10.132) each, boosting Pacific economies and lifting families out of poverty.
Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy said:“By opening the Skills Development Program up to more employers and raising the level of funding available, we are providing greater access to skills development opportunities for PALM scheme workers.
“This will benefit the workers themselves, their families and communities when they return home from Australia.”
Hillwood Berries General Manager, Simon Dornauf said:“PALM scheme workers are critical for businesses such as ours but they are also a long way from home and it’s vital that we support their development and look after them as best we can.”
“Workers are making such a valuable contribution both here and at home and they bring so much to this business and community in our part of Tasmania. We regularly receive photos of houses the workers are building at home and the improvements they are making to their lives.”.