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Apprenticeship funding overhaul

The Guardian   |     9 September 2014

One stop

One stop shops to be replaced with one stop shops!

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Small businesses in regional areas with high youth unemployment will gain access to federal government funding for training, as part of an overhaul of skills programs including the including replacing Australian Apprenticeships Centres with an Australian Apprenticeship Support Network.

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 The apprenticeship centres were described as government-contracted “one-stop shops” for businesses seeking to hire apprentices or people wishing to take up an apprenticeships.

In announcing the new arrangements, prime minister Tony Abbott said the new streamlined system would provide a “one-stop shop for employers, particularly small business, looking to hire a new apprentice suited to their business” but would replace “the unwieldy and overly bureaucratic system that has become bogged down in red tape”.

Abbott said about 50% of people who start apprenticeship training do not complete it. Abbott said while there were “a host of reasons” for the dropout rate, the government was seeking to ensure the apprenticeship system was “employer-led and outcome-focused”.

It says the new network will receive $200m in funding each year. The existing centres were projected to receive $219m this financial year, followed by $211m each year for the rest of the budget period. It is likely that the number of sites will be scaled back from the current network of over 300 sites.

The industry minister, Ian Macfarlane, said the existing system had become convoluted, complicated and too rigid in some areas. Macfarlane reaffirmed his previous comments that there was “no point in having training for training’s sake”.

The government announced two other elements of its skills plan on Monday, including $38m for the “training for employment scholarship program”. The employment scholarship program would allow small businesses to have access to “wholly funded government training” tailored to the needs of their business. Businesses hiring an unemployed person aged 18-24 would be eligible for funding to pay for up to 26 weeks of training, with about 7,500 scholarships provided in the initial round.

Abbott said the pathways program would “assist young Australians in regional areas to identify and successfully start on the path to their chosen career by returning to school, star A new youth employment pathways program will target teenagers who are not in school and need assistance to be ready for a job or training, in an apparent reframing of another program due to expire in December.

Labor’s vocational education spokeswoman, Sharon Bird, said the government’s announcements amounted to “an attempt to dress up a bit of restructuring as a great new initiative”.

Bird said the rebadged apprenticeship network would have to do more tasks with less funding. Employers were an important voice in the training system, but workers’ representatives and training providers must also be heard, she said.
The Australian Industry Group welcomed the “employer-driven model”, saying it would ensure industry had the capable workforce needed to secure Australia’s future competitiveness.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry also applauded the plan, saying there was “an urgent need for action on youth employment”.

Martin Riordan, chief executive TAFE Directors Australia, said TDA has been calling for an apprenticeship support overhaul in the wake of a “year-on-year double digit downturn in apprenticeships” and $2 billion funding cuts by the Coalition and its Labor predecessors.

We need to ensure that young people who have a passion for their trade get the chance to establish early workplace relationships, confidence and practice.

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