COVID-19 and vocational education and training in the ACT

Introduction

Last updated 5 May 2020

The ACT Government’s $137 million economic survival package includes support for apprentices, trainees and other vocational education and training (VET) learners to access nationally recognised training in skills needs areas across a range of industries. This support is critical for addressing our current skills needs, and essential in ensuring our workforce is well-placed to meets the needs of industry and our economy into the future.

The frequently asked questions (FAQs) below provide detail on the ACT Government’s economic survival package for ACT Australian Apprentices, Skilled Capital students and registered training organisations with an ACT Training Initiative Funding Agreement.

Skills Canberra will update these FAQs on receipt of additional questions.

Skilled Capital Qualification and Skill Set List

The Skilled Capital Qualification and Skill Set List - May 2020 (XLXS 3.48MB) or (PDF 156KB) designed to tackle workforce demand and supply issues as a result of COVID-19 has been released.

For further information refer to the Skilled Capital page.

ACT Government COVID-19 Business Support Webinars

Health and wellbeing

Life as we know it has changed in many ways as a result of COVID-19, and understandably it is affecting the mental health and wellbeing of many in the community. The ACT Government has published some useful contact information if you or someone you know needs help.

Employers of Australian Apprentices

Prior to making changes to business operations due to COVID-19, it is important you seek information and advice on your legal obligations.

Work health and safety

  • Safe Work Australia has published information on health and safety responsibilities in relation to changing business operations as a result of COVID-19.
  • WorkSafe ACT has also published information and can be contacted to provide further information on your work health and safety obligations. Telephone 13 22 81.

Industrial relations

  • The Fair Work Ombudsman has published information on your responsibilities under employment law in relation to changing business operations as a result of COVID-19. You can telephone the Fair Work Ombudsman on 13 13 94 and select the prompt for the Coronavirus hotline.
  • The ACT Wage Entitlement Information Service is a free service for ACT employers and Australian Apprentices seeking information on wages and employment conditions. Telephone 1300 278 681 or email apprenticeship@canberrabusiness.com.

Yes. If your registered training organisation is unable to offer another training option for your Australian Apprentice, then they are required to attend work instead. If you are considering changing the hours of work for your Australian Apprentice then you should seek industrial relations advice using the information and contacts provided above.

It is important that your registered training organisation indicates how long they anticipate being unable to deliver training to your Australian Apprentice. You may need to consider updating your Australian Apprentice’s training plan and training contract to reflect these changes.

It is important that you first review your obligations under employment law. Refer to the industrial relations information above for links to further information and useful contacts.

If you believe you are meeting your obligations under employment law, then contact Skills Canberra to discuss further. Skills Canberra understands the need for flexibility in relation to the minimum hours on the Australian Apprentice’s training contract. If you are unsure if you can meet your obligations with minimum hours, please contact email Skills Canberra for advice.

Once we are through this difficult time, and you are in a position to increase the Australian Apprentice’s hours, please follow the same process through AVETARS to increase hours on the training contract.

Yes. Registered training organisations in the ACT can continue to provide training to Australian Apprentices whose training contract has been suspended due to COVID-19.

The employer will need to initiate a suspension variation through their AVETARS portal. Skills Canberra will accept bulk suspension requests due to COVID-19. Please contact Skills Canberra for the bulk suspension request template.

Your registered training organisation will need to work with you to coordinate employer support for the units completed throughout this time and if there are any additional workplace requirements under the training package.

You should seek industrial relations advice and then discuss these options with your Australian Apprentice before putting arrangements in place.

Safe Work Australia has published COVID-19 Information for workplaces for employers on their website in response to COVID-19.

The WorkSafe ACT website also has information about work health and safety during COVID-19 and advice on employees working from home.

Through this period, Skills Canberra will be satisfied that you are meeting your Australian Apprentice supervision requirements if you can demonstrate you have followed these instructions. For further advice on Work Health and Safety, telephone WorkSafe ACT on 13 22 81.

For students undertaking an ASBA, continuation of placement and the level of participation is dependent on the student and parent or carer, registered training organisation and workplace. Students who are reliant on the ASBA to complete their Senior Secondary Certificate must contact their school. Any proposed increase in hours must only be considered after consultation with the school so that required course learning and assessment provided by the school is not compromised.

Employers and ASBAs can telephone the ACT Wage Entitlement Information Service on 1300 278 681 or email apprenticeship@canberrabusiness.com for industrial relations information.

The ACT Education Directorate has published Information on novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on their website on the response to COVID-19 and ASBAs.

It is important that you first review your obligations under employment and work health and safety laws before you make changes to your business that affect your employees. Refer to the industrial relations and work health and safety information above for links to further information and useful contacts.

Your business may be eligible for financial support through the ACT Government’s and Australian Government’s stimulus packages. Further information can be found at:

There are other options you can consider before you decide that your Australian Apprentice cannot continue, such as reducing your Australian Apprentice’s work hours. There may be enough work for your Australian Apprentice to work temporarily on a part-time basis.

If you are unable to provide work for your Australian Apprentice, your registered training organisation may be able to continue the off-the job training until the work returns.

Please ensure you seek industrial relations advice before implementing any changes to the work conditions of your employees.

If you need to stand down your Australian Apprentice (with or without pay) then a suspension must be applied to the training contract. When applying for the suspension in AVETARS, select ‘other’ as the reason for suspension and enter ‘due to COVID-19’ in the free text. Requesting a suspension period of 6 months will initially be approved, with the option to review the required period.

Skills Canberra will allow a registered training organisation to continue to deliver training on a suspended training contract if the employer and Australian Apprentice both agree. The employer should review their obligations under employment law before making this decision, and discuss industrial relations options such as pay and other entitlements with the Australian Apprentice before agreeing to continue training.

Once your Australian Apprentice is able to return to their normal duties then you must apply again for the suspension to be lifted from the training contract via AVETARS.

An employer who has stood down an Australian Apprentice due to COVID-19, and has suspended their training contract, may still be eligible for the Australian Government’s JobKeeper payments. Refer to the Australian Government’s Coronavirus information and support for business website for more information.

If an employer is not eligible for the JobKeeper payments, a suspended Australian Apprentice may be eligible for the Australian Government’s JobSeeker payments. Refer to the Services Australia website for more information.

An Australian Apprenticeship training contract should only be cancelled if the Australian Apprentice’s employment contract is terminated and there is no intention of them commencing work with the employer again after the COVID-19 downturn.

Skills Canberra encourages suspensions over cancellations. When applying for the suspension in AVETARS, select ‘other’ as the reason for suspension and enter ‘due to COVID-19’ in the free text.

An employer should seek industrial relations advice from the above information and contacts before deciding to terminate an Australian Apprentice’s employment.

An employer is also encouraged to contact the ACT Apprenticeship Network Provider, Sarina Russo, before terminating employment to discuss what options are available. Sarina Russo Apprenticeship can be telephoned on 13 15 59.

Skills Canberra will accept email confirmations from any party for any variation validations while businesses and Australian Apprentices are impacted by COVID-19. Please include the following information in the email to Skills Canberra:

  • Australian Apprentice name
  • Australian Apprentice date of birth
  • AVETARS training contract ID (if known)
  • Variation type (for example, suspension, extension or change of hours)
  • What is being requested (for example period of suspension or reason for cancellation)
  • Date of effect of variation
  • Name of approver
  • Advice if the employer and/or registered training organisation has been consulted.

Yes. Australian Apprenticeship sign-ups are still occurring. Telephone the ACT Apprenticeship Network Provider, Sarina Russo, on 13 15 59 if you want to arrange a sign up.

Australian Government business support payments

Businesses who employed an Australian Apprentice on 1 March 2020 and have since cancelled or stood them down without pay, may still be eligible to receive a payment from the Australian Government.

Telephone the ACT Apprenticeship Network Provider, Sarina Russo, on 13 15 59 for information on the supporting apprentices and trainees wage subsidy payment.

JobKeeper Payments

The Australian Government’s payment is intended to provide wage subsidies to businesses that are significantly affected by COVID-19. The payments will be managed by the Australian Tax Office. More information about the payments, including how to register for updates, is available on the Australian Government’s business.gov.au website.

Australian Apprentice and trainee wage subsidy

The ACT Apprenticeship Network Provider, Sarina Russo, are managing the Australian Government’s Australian Apprentice and trainee wage subsidy stimulus payments for employers of Australian Apprentices and trainees in the ACT. More information is available on the Sarina Russo website and you can be kept up to date with more information by registering via their contact form.

Australian Apprentices including trainees and Australian School-based Apprentices

You will need to discuss your training needs with your registered training organisation. Training organisations in the ACT can continue to provide training to Australian Apprentices whose training contract has been suspended due to COVID-19.

However, the Australian Government recently announced a JobKeeper payment which is intended to provide wage subsidies to businesses that are significantly affected by COVID-19 to continue paying their employees.

Your previous employer could explore seeking this payment from the Australian Government to support you as a suspended employee who could continue to undertake off the job training.

More information on the payments, including how to register for updates, is available on the Australian Government’s business.gov.au website.

The Australian Government recently announced a JobKeeper payment which is intended to provide wage subsidies to businesses that are significantly affected by COVID-19 to continue paying their employees.

More information regarding the payments, including how to register for updates, is available on the Australian Government’s business.gov.au website.

If you have concerns about cancelling your training contract with your employer you can telephone your Apprenticeship Network Provider, Sarina Russo on 13 15 59.

If you are concerned you have been stood down or terminated inappropriately you can refer to the information provided on the Fair Work Ombudsman website and telephone the Fair Work Ombudsman on 13 13 94.

If the business you were working for has closed as a result of COVID-19 and you have been let go, you may be able to apply for JobSeeker payments from the Australian Government. For more information refer to the Services Australia website.

If you would like to look for another employer to continue your apprenticeship or traineeship, or you would like to explore another Australian Apprenticeship pathway, you can register your details with the ACT Apprenticeship Network Provider, Sarina Russo.

Also, the National Apprentice Employment Network (NAEN) has launched the new Apprentice and Trainee Re-engagement Register. The Register was announced by the Australian Government in the first economic stimulus package, and will enable apprentices and trainees from small businesses who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak to connect with prospective employers, find work and continue their training. To register visit the NAEN website.

The Australian Government recently announced a JobKeeper payment which is intended to provide wage subsidies to businesses that are significantly affected by COVID-19 to continue paying their employees.

Your employer can get information regarding the payments, including how to register for updates, from the Australian Government’s business.gov.au website.

The Australian Government has expanded the eligibility for JobSeeker and Youth Allowance for Jobseeker payments due to COVID-19.

An Australian Apprentice who has had their Australian Apprenticeship cancelled or who has been suspended without pay due to COVID-19 may be eligible for payments from the Australian Government. More information can be found on the Services Australia website.

Skills Canberra will accept email confirmations from any party for any variation validations while businesses and Australian Apprentices are impacted by COVID-19. Please include the following information in the email to Skills Canberra:

  • Australian Apprentice name
  • Australian Apprentice date of birth
  • AVETARS training contract ID (if known)
  • Variation type (for example, suspension, extension or change of hours)
  • What is being requested (for example period of suspension or reason for cancellation)
  • Date of effect of variation
  • Name of approver
  • Advice if the employer and/or registered training organisation has been consulted.

Registered training organisations

Skills Canberra acknowledges that this is an extremely difficult and uncertain time for the Territory’s registered training organisations (RTOs) and that some may be operating at a reduced or limited capacity. Please contact Skills Canberra if your organisation anticipates, or is experiencing, any issues with meeting its obligations under the ACT Government Training Initiative Funding Agreement or Australian Apprenticeships training contract.

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has published a set of frequently asked questions relating to registration compliance requirements for RTOs.

RTOs that are impacted by COVID-19 are also encouraged to to contact the ASQA Info Line on 1300 701 801 or by email to discuss adaptive measures.

The Australian Government has placed certain restrictions on gatherings and businesses. Currently, these restrictions do not apply to education institutions.

It is ultimately up to individual RTOs to decide whether they remain open based on their own risk assessment of the situation. However, ASQA recommends that RTOs consider the development and delivery of remote (for example, online and distance learning) training and assessment where they are able to, and delay face-to-face delivery for the time being.

The Australian Government has stressed that the measures of practising good hygiene and keeping a physical distance between individuals are in place to fight this virus.

We understand that an RTO’s capacity and capability to transition to remote training and assessment is varied and in some areas, online or distance learning will not be a viable long term solution given the applied application and practical nature of vocational education and training. In particular, training products, led by industry, often have stringent requirements regarding demonstration of competence particularly in areas where services are provided to vulnerable groups or to protect the safety of workers. In addition, many training products require students to have access to simulated work environments to demonstrate competence prior to being able to enter the workplace.

RTOs will need to review their training arrangements to assess the degree to which it can be transitioned to flexible delivery arrangements and, where attendance is required (to provide supervision or access to specialised equipment), manage this in accordance with social distancing protocols.

Should your RTO continue to deliver face-to-face, you should make adjustments to the classroom to create more space between people, for example by ensuring desks or work stations are adequately separated (4 square metres).

RTOs should also consider increasing cleaning, particularly of classrooms, toilets, common areas, door handles and equipment.

Any student who is unwell, or who is required to self-isolate, must not attend class and must be sent home.

The Australian Government Department of Health has released Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources for employers and others to help stop the spread.

Further advice is also available on the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website.

Yes. Skills Canberra is extending any Skilled Capital enrolment active as at 23 March 2020 by 6 months due to COVID-19.

Yes. If the employer and Australian Apprentice support off the job training continuing throughout a suspension, Skills Canberra approve the continuation of the off the job training.

The employer should seek industrial relations advice before making any changes to the Australian Apprentice’s training contract.

RTOs with an ACT Government Training Initiative Funding Agreement can access a 50% unit payment where a student has commenced a unit of competency, but is unable to finalise assessment due to workplace access issues and social distancing policies.

To claim the remaining 50% for these units, the RTO must finalise assessment and obtain evidence of employer support of competency once COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.

Skills Canberra introduced User Choice and Skilled Capital pricing measures on 15 January 2020 to address budget pressures.

Due to COVID-19, implementation of these pricing measures will be delayed until 2021. This means that all qualification subsidy amounts (QSAs) for Australian Apprenticeships will revert to 2019 (or higher) pricing. This includes pricing for ASBAs, existing workers and new workers.

The new qualification subsidy amounts (QSAs) will be automatically applied to all training contracts that commenced on or after 15 January 2020, including existing worker training contracts. These QSAs will remain the same for the duration of the training contract (even if the student doesn’t complete until 2022). The only reason the QSA would ever change is if there was a change of employer through cancellation of a contract and then a recommencement with a new employer.

The 50% unit payment is available to RTOs where training for a unit of competency has commenced and the RTO is unable to finalise assessment for one of the following reasons:

Australian Apprenticeships

  • The RTO is unable to attend the Australian Apprentices worksite to undertake work-based or practical assessment
  • The Australian Apprentice is not at work (for example the training contract is suspended, worker is stood down or leave arrangements have been implemented
  • The RTO is unable to contact the employer to obtain sign off at the unit level
  • The RTO does not have capability for simulated workplace assessment.

Skilled Capital

  • The unit requirements include a work placement component of the assessment and the RTO or student is unable to access a workplace
  • The RTO does not have capability for simulated workplace assessment.

There is no restriction on the commencement date for these units.

The payment can only be claimed for ACT funded students with an ‘approved’ or ‘suspended’ status.

To claim the 50% payment, RTOs must lodge a 50% Unit Claim Report (DOCX 66KB) for each student, identifying the unit/s of competency and the reason/s for each claim.

Skills Canberra is updating the Skilled Capital qualification list for a future release. Skills Canberra will be consulting with key parties in the coming weeks with a view to publish the list in April and have the round open before the end of May.

This list will include qualifications from the ACT 2020 Skills Needs List and also look to include Skill Sets and other qualifications to address emerging needs for the ACT during this time.

There will a 3 day guaranteed enrolment period. After the 3 days caps will be applied.

The 8 week timeframe for completing the training plan has been automatically extended to 6 months for training contracts with a notification of business date on or after 23 March 2020.

Training plan signed dates should be entered into AVETARS as per the usual process. Delays to payments may occur as Skills Canberra will be required to process these payments manually.

A claim for a unit payment can only be submitted once the training plan signed date has been entered into AVETARS.

A reminder that the RTO must conduct and document the initial skills assessment prior to commencement of training. Where this is not possible, the initial skills assessment must be conducted prior to the completion of the training plan, noting any approved extension timeframes.

Where possible, the RTO should provide flexible training arrangements and continue training, for example online or distance learning. It may also be necessary to delay training in some instances.

Grants Programs

Skills Canberra is working with funding recipients to identify any implications for project activities resulting from COVID-19.

Skills Canberra may negotiate a variation to the Deeds of Grant where appropriate to support the successful completion of funded projects.

If the delivery of your program or service has changed, please provide a summary of program or service changes, and an updated risk plan focusing on the current challenges by email to Skills Canberra. Once received, someone from the Skills Canberra grants team will be in contact to confirm details and finalise a variation to your deed of grant, if required.

Funding recipients from the Future Skills for Future Jobs 2018-19 round where projects commenced in June 2019 with the completion date of 30 June 2020 have been extended until 31 December 2020. This will be reviewed in the last quarter of 2020 to identify if further extensions need to be facilitated. All milestone payments will proceed as outlined in the project Deed of Grant with funded activities acquitted at project completion.

Funding recipients from the Future Skills for Future Jobs 2019-20 round were required to commence their projects by 30 April 2020, this has been extended until 30 June 2020. A review will take place in late May to analyse the need for further extensions.

Skills Canberra understands that proposed funded activities may be affected as a result of COVID-19. Existing applicants have been requested to submit an updated risk plan to Skills Canberra and to outline any timing or logistical changes that may be required due to the current COVID-19 related restrictions. Skills Canberra will liaise with applicants directly to confirm the next steps in the application process.

Information and contacts for employers and workers

COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic (an infectious disease outbreak that spreads on a global scale) by the World Health Organisation.

Community advice is being controlled by Health authorities in each state and territory in close consultation with each other and the Australian Government.

While the focus has appropriately been on community health it clearly has impacts on workplaces.

Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws require persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace. This includes providing and maintaining a work environment that is without risk to health and safety and adequate facilities for workers in carrying out their work.

Under WHS laws PCBUs must have measures in place to eliminate or manage the risks arising from COVD-19. Control measure could include practising good hygiene, social distancing and using masks.

To do this, you should keep up to date with the latest COVID-19 information and advice to ensure that any action taken is appropriate. This includes closely monitoring the information provided by the Australian Government Department of Health, and ACT Health.

For a list of resources about COVID-19 in other languages refer to the Australian Government Department of Health website and the following languages:

For information about workplace entitlements and obligations refer to the Coronavirus and Australian workplace laws page on the Fair Work Ombudsman website or call the Fair Work Ombudsman on 13 13 94 and select the prompt for the Coronavirus hotline.

If you have any urgent applications, such as applications to vary enterprise agreements or other instruments to deal with the consequences of COVID-19 they can be emailed to the Fair Work Commission.

The following links provide further useful information:

The following links provide information about COVID-19 from the World Health Organissation:

Posters are available to print on the Resources page on the ACT Government COVID-19 website including:

  • Prevent the spread of germs
  • Hand washing
  • Issue a tissue
  • Identifying the symptoms.