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Apprentice numbers slump

Fairfax Media     |    28 June 2016

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The number of apprentices across Australia has plunged since the Coalition took office, government figures show, with some of the steepest falls occurring in high-unemployment marginal seats still up for grabs at Saturday’s election.

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Western Sydney has lost 10,642 apprentices and western Melbourne 4782, while the national total fell 28 per cent from 383,562 to 278,583, between December 2013 and December last year, documents obtained under Freedom of Information and NCVER data reveal.

Shorten at Swinburne

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten with apprentices at Swinburne University VET division

 

Labor claims the falling take up of apprenticeships is a direct result of the $1 billion stripped from trades support programs since the change of government, including the abolition of the ‘Tools for Your Trade’ (TFYT) program – which paid $5500 to apprentices over two years – and other training and mentoring programs.

The Coalition replaced the program with a loans scheme which has been taken up by just 40,000 apprentices in the past two years.  Labor proposes to reintroduce TFYT as a grants scheme of $3,000.

Concern at the dearth of apprentices in the system in 2016 extends beyond the complaints of Labor and unions, with Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox recently describing the proportion of apprentices and trainees in the workforce as “worryingly low” at just 2.7 per cent.

The Ai Group called for apprenticeships to be “put at the top of election platforms” for both major parties.

Scott Ryan

Scott Ryan

The Coalition has not announced any apprentice-specific policies during the election but the Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Scott Ryan, said the Youth Jobs PaTH Program, announced in the budget, “helps equip young job seekers by getting them ready” for employment.

But the Turnbull government claims Labor “gutted” the apprentice system by repeatedly cutting employer incentive payments between 2011 and 2013.

 

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