Early Budget Announcement – $1.2 billion to support employment of apprentices and trainees

The Commonwealth Government has done an early Budget announcement that it will invest an additional $1.2 billion to support Australian businesses to employ 100,000 new apprentices or trainees, as part of the Government’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan.

From Monday 5 October 2020, businesses which take on a new Australian apprentice will be eligible for a 50 per cent wage subsidy, regardless of geographic location, occupation, industry or business size.

“As a Government, we understand that apprenticeships are an important pathway to get young people into jobs and to ensure there is a skills pipeline to meet the future needs of employers,” said Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Minister.

The subsidy will be available to employers of any size or industry, Australia-wide which engages an Australian apprentice or trainee until the 100,000 cap is reached. Employers will be eligible for 50 per cent of the wages for a new or recommencing apprentice or trainee for the period up to 30 September 2021, up to $7,000 per quarter.

CCA welcomes the additional commitment of funding to the VET sector, says CEO, Dr Don Perlgut. “It’s clear that the Commonwealth is very serious about placing skills and training near the top of the economic recovery agenda,” said Dr Perlgut.

“We need to make certain that this extraordinary – and most welcome – infusion of skills funding leads to proper outcomes. Australia’s not-for-profit community education providers, best-placed to reach the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, must have an important role to play. This will ensure training quality is maintained,” said Dr Perlgut.

There have been some criticisms of the emphasis on apprenticeships, which are taken up much more by men than women. Jan Kabatek (University of Melbourne, Crikey, 2 October 2020) notes: “Young women are much more likely than men to report losing their job due to COVID-19 – 45% of unemployed females aged 18-24, compared with 34% of unemployed males.”

Megan Lilly, Head of Workforce Development for peak employer association AI Group, supports the apprenticeship funding, which will increase Australia’s pool of skilled workers, and reduce the risk of longer-term skills shortages. She cautions, however, that the funding presents a risk that most of the support will go towards men, despite women being disproportionately affected by the pandemic (The New Daily, 4 October 2020).

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