Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, I would like to hear your comments about the small business apprenticeships and trainee programs. I saw that there is some funding available for small businesses. I know we talked about this with another minister but there are small business apprenticeships and training programs that are funded; is that correct?
Ms HOWLETT - Yes, that is in Ms Courtney's portfolio. I do not believe I can answer.
Dr WOODRUFF - I appreciate that it is in her portfolio, skills and training, but this is a question about small business and whether there is an allocation of apprenticeships and traineeships for small businesses in particular, for the skills that small business owners require?
Ms HOWLETT - That is a really good question. I will have to take the question on notice and get that information from Ms Courtney.
Dr WOODRUFF - I do recognise that apprenticeships are trade-specific and they can cross many small businesses, but traineeships is a different category.
Ms HOWLETT - Secretary, would you like to add anything?
Mr BOWLES - The selection of qualifications available through traineeships and apprenticeships happens through the relationship between the student and the RTO - that could be TAFE or it could be one of the independent RTOs. The selection of qualifications on offer as apprenticeships or traineeships in Tasmania is very wide; there are hundreds of them. I don't have the exact figure with me. A wide range of qualifications can be subsidised, and the way a student accesses the subsidy is not tied to the type of business they are employed by.
Dr WOODRUFF - That is entirely appropriate and I understand, thank you. Are we undertaking any specific small business training and support for people who own small businesses? It's a particular skill set, as you know. People wander into small businesses, often without any idea of the realities of the market and consumer demand. I don't know whether there is any particular guidance, given the rate of businesses closing in the first couple of years is very high. I don't know whether we are doing anything proactive in Tasmania to support people to think clearly about the sort of investment of time and resources they will need to put into a business, and whether they should be diverting their time and resources somewhere else.
Ms HOWLETT - That's a really good point, Dr Woodruff, and that's why the Enterprise Centres are really important. The Enterprise Program is a statewide network of independent business advisors. It provides free business guidance and information to support businesses to start, run and grow. The Enterprise Centres are a good example of government working to support business. Our professional, regionally-based business advisors ensure that the regional needs of businesses are met and that businesses receive professional, independent advice.
The ECT Program delivers business advisory services to enhance small business capability, improve the resilience of new and established small businesses and promote growth by offering support in all stages of business development. I know of quite a few individuals who have wanted to start a business, and have been to the Enterprise Centres and sought the free counselling, and have worked out what it would cost to open their doors. It's a really important service. Anyone you know who is looking at starting up a small business, I would highly encourage them to utilise those centres.
Dr WOODRUFF - The Enterprise Centre in Huonville was amalgamated into a southern region. There was concern about the delivery of services to people in regional areas and whether they would have to travel to bigger centres in order to access support services. Could you detail how much funding has gone to those Enterprise Centres over the forward Estimates?
Ms HOWLETT - Additional funding of $300 000 has been provided to the ECT Program under the COVID-19 Sustainability and Recovery Support Program.
Dr WOODRUFF - Is that for this year or over the forward Estimates?
Ms HOWLETT - Across the forward Estimates. The ECT Program is delivered under the Business Growth Strategy 2019 23 Key Action Plan. This allowed an increase in the number of support hours available for all small businesses. During the period July 2020 21, the business advisors under the ECT Program consulted with and assisted over 2100 different businesses around the state.
Some of the key topics advisors are currently discussing with Tasmanian small business owners and operators are: the recovery from COVID-19 and safe workplace plans; starting or expanding a business; identifying new opportunities and networks; dealing with unforeseen circumstances; managing business finances; developing a marketing strategy; taking a business online, which a lot of people have been doing; commercialising an idea and exporting products as well. The ECT program is delivered under the Business Growth Strategy 2019-23 key action plan as well.