The Australian

JobTrainer’s $1bn win for apprentice­s

- SIMON BENSON

More than $1bn in new wage subsidies for up to 70,000 more apprentice­s will be rolled out to protect the out of work from an imminent jobs cliff, as the Morrison government prepares to extend a further lifeline to employers for the hiring of new trainees.

The 50 per cent wage subsidy for trainees that has run from October will now be uncapped and extended for another year.

It comes as the government is also set to confirm billions of dollars in targeted assistance packages to replace JobKeeper in high unemployme­nt areas, and for aviation and tourism.

More than $1bn in new wage subsidies for up to 70,000 more apprentice­s will be rolled out to protect the out of work from an imminent jobs cliff, as the Morrison government prepares to extend a further lifeline to employers for the hiring of new trainees.

With the generous JobKeeper wage subsidy due to end this month, an existing 50 per cent wage subsidy for trainees that has run in parallel from October will now be uncapped and extended for another year.

The expansion of the Boosting Apprentice­ship Commenceme­nts — which has already met its initial cap of 100,000 places — comes as cabinet’s expenditur­e review committee prepares this week to sign off on billions of dollars more in targeted assistance packages to replace JobKeeper in high unemployme­nt regions, as well as the aviation and tourism sectors.

The government said the extension of the trainee wage subsidies would shift to a demanddriv­en model that is estimated to almost double the existing program with an extra 70,000 new apprentice and trainee places.

While the bulk of the places are expected to be contracts for young workers, about 20 per cent of the current crop engaged over-35s who are taking on new skills.

The bulk of the traineeshi­ps and apprentice­ships have been dominated by the constructi­on services sector, food and beverages, administra­tion, building constructi­on and repair and maintenanc­e skills.

Scott Morrison said “training and skills were at the core of the government’s response to the economic challenges faced by the COVID-19 recession”.

“Creating jobs, generating economic opportunit­ies and boosting the skills of workers right across Australia are at the heart of our national economic recovery plan, as we build back from the COVID-19 recession,” he said.

“Last week’s national accounts showed the comeback of the Australian economy is under way. However, many businesses still need support and it’s important our apprentice­s and trainees get opportunit­ies to boost their skills and stay employed.

“With 100,000 new apprentice­ship positions already snapped up, it highlights the confidence businesses have in the future of the Australian economy.”

The extended program will apply for employers who sign up new apprentice­s and trainees before September 30 and will run to October 2022.

Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Michaelia Cash said the program was essential for creating new jobs, with Treasury and the Reserve Bank both predicting a short-term rise in unemployme­nt following the end of JobKeeper.

The initial apprentice­ship package, announced as part of the $4bn JobTrainer COVID-19 response to ensure a post-pandemic skilled workforce, was directed at encouragin­g struggling firms to keep on their apprentice­s and trainees to avoid deepening the crisis for younger Australian­s.

“Growing our skills pipeline is an incredibly important part of helping our economic recovery,” Senator Cash said.

“The Boosting Apprentice­ships Commenceme­nt program has to date assisted almost 40,000 businesses to take on a new Australian apprentice or trainee.

“This initiative has supported the creation of more than 8000 bricklayer­s, 6000 electricia­ns, and almost 11,000 people in retail and hospitalit­y work.

“By expanding this wage subsidy for another 12 months, we will be helping businesses to create even more jobs, further supporting our national economic recovery plan for Australia.”

The wage subsidy is set at 50 per cent of the salary of a new apprentice and was valued at about $1bn based on an uptake over the year of 100,000 younger workers. The industry was sceptical at the time, but the scheme was fully subscribed within five months.

Perth carpenter Darren Gregory said he would not have been able to hire an apprentice without the subsidies, and the extended support would make him consider hiring more.

“I can now think about adding a third or fourth-year apprentice who’s closer to being a tradesman with the subsidy,” he said. “Times are really tough, so the subsidy and our new apprentice really rebooted the business. We’ve able to take larger jobs on — it’s all about growing the business.”

In a speech to be delivered on Tuesday on the national economic recovery, the Prime Minister will say that although the labour market is strengthen­ing, there are still people looking for work and wanting to upskill.

“We have never forgotten them,” Mr Morrison will say.

“At the outset of the pandemic, we made keeping apprentice­s in their jobs one of our first priorities.

“In addition to JobKeeper, our (apprentice­s program) has successful­ly kept over 122,000 apprentice­s on the tools. They would likely have been the first to go.

“Such a loss would have been devastatin­g for our economy, as years of training would have been lost and possibly never recovered.”

 ?? COLIN MURTY ?? Trainee Elizabeth Hastings, 18, with carpenter Darren Gregory
COLIN MURTY Trainee Elizabeth Hastings, 18, with carpenter Darren Gregory

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