Training is not high on the list of priorities for most businesses.  Often the costs seem to outweigh the benefits.  But if you start to dig a bit deeper there are several funding opportunities for businesses to help pay the cost of training for their staff.  The funding is mainly available for vocational training full qualifications with some opportunities to obtain funding for short courses.

The main forms of funding for landscape and nursery businesses include:

1.1 Apprenticeship Funding

Apprenticeship funding can be used for new or existing staff.  Alpine used this funding to help pay the cost of a Certificate III course where most students had been at Alpine for at least 1 year.  It didn’t mean we suddenly paid these staff apprenticeship rates of pay; on the contrary there was no change to their existing wages and salaries.  We chose this funding because several of these students had undertaken but not completed Cert III level training before and under this program we would have not obtained funding across all students.

1.2 Traineeship funding

There has been some changes to this funding recently but it’s still available and used to train existing staff as well as new employees.  We have utilized this training for Cert IV and Diploma level training.  It is subject to meeting eligibility.  However, if you have a class of 8 and 6 of those students qualify for funding then the overall funding you receive may still pay 70-80% of the total cost of the training.

To find out more about funding for apprenticeships or traineeships speak to an apprenticeship centre, such Australian Business Apprenticeship Centre.

1.3  Strategic Skills Placement Funding (SSP)

This funding is currently available (March 2013) but there is no guarantee the government will offer it next Financial Year.  Essentially the employer needs to work on the training solution with the RTO and the RTO sends the State Government and Expression of Interest and submission.  If the State Government office nearest to you has SSP funding and likes the submission then SSP may be offered.  This will then provide you with funding to pay the cost of the course.  The employer will probably have to pay a fee per student such as the enrolment fee to the RTO.

Alpine has used this funding to pay for machinery training on-site for a group of staff that needed forklift and front end loader licenses and currently has submissions in for Certificate III Production Nursery for a class of about 8 students.

1.4 National Workforce Development Fund (NWDF)

AgriFood Skills Australia is the key body on skills and workforce development for the Australian agrifood industry and regional Australia which includes the nursery and landscape industries.  Via AgriFood’s employers in nursery or landscape can apply for Federal Government funding called NWDF.  Applications are submitted to Agrifoods outlining the type of training and benefit.  If successful the government will pay between half and two thirds of the cost of training depending on the size of your business.

Alpine was successful with an application for this funding to provide Cert IV Business Sales training.  But as we couldn’t find the right RTO and the timing and priorities changed for the business we didn’t utilize the funding but opportunities certainly exist for businesses to utilise this funding, particularly if the funding opportunities in points 1-3 above are not available for your circumstance or not appropriate.

Also keep in mind that short courses and workshops organized by industry associations are often free for staff to attend and CPD points are issued to students who complete the training and assessment.  Companies such as Alpine also host free seminars so there are certainly ways to be creative when contemplating training for your staff.

If you want to access this funding or want to find out more contact your industry association such as Landscape NSW (LNA) or the Nursery and Garden Industry Association (NGINA).  Thereare also very competent people within the Agri Food Council.  Contact Andrew Knox at Alpine if you want to talk about appropriate contacts in any of these bodies and associations.    

Also speak to Alpine if you wanted to discuss training solutions.  For instance we could offer our nursery facilities to landscape businesses that wanted to provide additional plant knowledge for their staff or we could put a group of students together from various nurseries in the one class and have the sessions taught at Alpine Dural.