Plans to upskill workforce welcomed by HVACR industry
A 2017–18 Federal Budget predicated on infrastructure spending and skills growth offers considerable value for the HVACR industry, according to the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH).
According to AIRAH CEO, Tony Gleeson, the government’s plan to spend $75 billion on key infrastructure projects over 10 years offers plenty for Australia in general, particularly HVAC&R.
“A Budget focused on rail, road and airport spending is obviously a boon for the construction sector, and for trade opportunities,” Gleeson said.
“As an integral component of the industries that assemble our built environment and also provides health and comfort, the HVACR industry will benefit too.
“And with the establishment of the Skilling Australians Fund, the HVAC&R trade sector is getting quite a leg-up, which we tentatively support while we await more detail. The Industry Specialist Mentoring for Australian Apprentices program, which has had $60 million set aside for it, is another excellent initiative.”
The Skilling Australians Fund will prioritise apprenticeships and traineeships in occupations in high demand that currently rely on skilled migration.
The fund is a significant commitment providing an estimated $1.5 billion from 2017–18 to 2020–21 to state and territory governments to implement projects focused on improving apprenticeships and traineeships.
In place of the now scrapped 457 visa for foreign workers, the government plans to create a new temporary skills-shortage visa that has stricter conditions.
Employers wishing to hire foreign workers through the new visa will be required to make contributions to the new Fund.
Gleeson said the government’s $1 billion National Housing Infrastructure Facility to remove impediments to developing new homes is one of a number of positive elements included in the Budget.
Another was the establishment of a $10 billion National Rail Program to create better connectivity and productivity.
“We also applaud the directive for researchers to engage more closely with industry than has occurred in the past,” Gleeson said.
“Indeed, we are already seeing this happen, where academics have come down from their ivory towers and actively engaging with industry and with AIRAH itself to kick-start some fantastic initiatives. This will help Australia build skills and capability for the jobs and industries of the future.”
Gleeson said it’s disappointing that, pending various policy reviews that are in progress, the Federal Budget appears to defer new funding for policy responding to climate change.
As participants in some of those reviews, AIRAH will continue to voice the view that it’s important to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions via the adoption of appropriate refrigerants, and through resilient design.
“Although there are some very admirable elements in the 2017–18 Federal Budget, AIRAH will continue to talk to those in power about those things important to us and our members,” Gleeson said.
“We will continue to be the leading independent voice for our industry on resilience, sustainability, compliance, innovation, and the transition to low-GWP refrigerants.”
The Green Building Council of Australia CEO, Romilly Madew, also welcomed the massive infrastructure spend adding that it will support better cities and regions across Australia.
“In addition to jobs, the Treasurer’s call for the ‘right infrastructure, in the right place’ should also deliver more sustainable, liveable and resilient communities for all Australians," she said.
An online Commonwealth land registry will be established detailing sites that can be made available for residential development.
"This represents a fantastic opportunity for new world-class sustainable urban renewal," Madew added.
"It's important we build communities that are affordable and sustainable over the long term. And that means building smart from the start.
“Taxpayers should expect that generational investments in our cities create long-term value and an ongoing return on investment. And any new infrastructure should achieve independent third-party certification that confirms that value.”