State and territory governments are rushing to roll out an $80 million infection control training initiative to 80,000 workers in customer-facing businesses, as coronavirus lockdown restrictions are relaxed across the country.
Federal Employment and Skills Minister Michaelia Cash said the “urgent” initiative would inspire confidence as customers return to bars and restaurants and pave the way for a “strong and rapid economic recovery”.
Nationally recognised skills certification will be available to employees in retail and food handling, as well as transport and logistics.
A spokesperson for the minister said the funding will enable 80,000 workers to complete the training for “no, or a very low fee” and the course can also be completed on a fee for service basis.
Certification is optional and businesses and individual workers may choose to participate depending on their circumstances. The courses will be made available “as soon as possible”, the spokesperson said.
Infection control training has previously been widely available only in the health sector.
“This infection control training is designed to empower workers by teaching them the skills and knowledge they need to decrease risk and transmission of infection while carrying out their daily duties,” Senator Cash said.
In NSW pubs, cafes and restaurants are allowed to trade with 10 patrons. Cafes and restaurants in Victoria remain restricted to takeaway services.
The training will be delivered in short courses, expected to take 25 hours to complete, which will be provided through state governments. The Commonwealth will provide $40 million with the remaining funding divided among the states.
Workers will be taught hand hygiene, surface cleaning, use of personal protective equipment, waste disposal, hazard identification, and general knowledge of infection and transmission.
Courses will be run online by registered training organisations. Certification for workers will be completed after employees are assessed by their supervisor in the workplace.
Federal and state governments approved the infection control training initiative at an emergency meeting on the Council of Australian governments skills council on Friday.
The workplace training initiative comes as this week the under-emplo
yment rate hit an all-time high of 19.9 per cent, once the proportion of people working reduced hours is taken into account.
The total number of unemployed has climbed throughout the coronavirus pandemic to 823,300 and a record 1.8 million people are now technically underemployed, with young workers the hardest hit.