Skills Guarantee procurement guide released by DEWR

By Dan Holmes

May 20, 2024

Tony Burke
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations has released released new guidance on procurement, ahead of the official start of the Procurement Connected Policy.

Procurement Connected is part of the Australian Skills Guarantee, which uses government investment in major projects to help train the next generation of skilled workers.

The Skills Guarantee introduces new national targets for apprentices, trainees and paid cadets working on government-funded major projects. It also introduces national targets for women, to reduce gender segregation in the apprenticeship system.

The policy will initially apply to direct Commonwealth procurements in the construction and ICT sectors, where the total contract value is $10 million or more.

Targets for major government works will start at 10% of hours worked by apprentices, and 6% of apprentice hours worked by women.

From July 1, 2024, departments and agencies must specify whether the procurement is a major construction project, major ICT project, or flagship construction project when inviting potential suppliers to participate in a procurement to which the Skills Guarantee applies.

When evaluating submissions, relevant entities will need to consider the targets in conjunction with other assessment criteria, to determine the submission that demonstrates the most value for money in accordance with the Commonwealth procurement rules.

The procurement advice was released the same week that small business ombud Bruce Billson said Australia’s procurement rules were too complicated for either public servants or small businesses to understand.

The government response suggests they feel most of his recommendations are already taken care of by existing legislation including the Skills Guarantee.

Billson disagreed.

“The sentiment that it is ‘all sorted” or more of the same with a minor tweak here and there, was not reflected in any of the submissions, research or reference group input,” he said.

“Dismissing considered and evidence-based reforms as potentially expensive, inefficient or duplicative without any meaningful examination to justify retaining current and known-to-be ineffective and perfunctory arrangements, is at odds with the stated ambition of successive governments to improve commonwealth procurement for small business suppliers.

“One of our recommendations was to abolish the Procurement Coordinator function and replace it with a Procurement Commissioner, who would have independent processes for resolving complaints and the ability to synchronise and support procurements.

“Why wouldn’t you create a Commissioner like occurs in so many other policy areas with focus, authority, drive and independence?”


Small businesses excluded from procurement, says ombud

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