Apprentice Subsidy a Lure to Create Regional Jobs

Posted 31 October 2018

Apprentice Subsidy a Lure to Create Regional Jobs

Regional small businesses will be heavily subsidised to take on apprentices as the Morrison government announces a $60 million trial of a "bush wage" to encourage more Australians into trades such as hairdressing, plumbing and painting.

From January 1, employers in regional centres will be able to access government subsidies covering 75 per cent of an apprentice's award wage in the first year, 50 per cent in the second year, and 25 per cent in the third year to "turbocharge" careers.

Those undertaking full-time apprenticeships at certificate III and IV levels in occupations on the National Skills Needs List - including bakers, bricklayers, carpenters, electricians, mechanics and roof tilers - will be eligible under the scheme.

Small and Family Business Minister Michaelia Cash, who will announce the trial with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack in the NSW Riverina city of Wagga Wagga today, said it would create up to 1630 apprentices.

"Through this incentive, we are securing the skills our regional and rural businesses need to remain competitive and give local students new opportunities at home," Senator Cash said.

Shalini Perera, who has owned Trendy Hair and Beauty Salon in Queanbeyan, NSW, for three years and employs one apprentice, said she would like to take on a second. She will receive a government subsidy of $3250 over 2½ years for her apprentice but pays "much more than that" in wages, superannuation, insurance and education costs.

"I'm happy to have another person because sometimes, if I'm sick, I need another one to help me," Ms Perera said. "I can ask (the two apprentices) to work on different days.

"It's good if I have more apprentices and I'm happy to train them. Salon training is better than school; they get theory from school and practical work from on-the-job training."

Ms Perera said she liked employing locals because it was easy for them to travel and they tended to stay with her business for longer than those who lived further away.

The Morrison government has unveiled a suite of policies targeting rural Australia in the past two months, such as the $5 billion Drought Future Fund, but has been criticised by farmers for so far failing to adopt an agricultural-specific visa to ease the labour-shortage crisis. New visa conditions are also expected to be imposed on thousands of migrants each year to force them to settle outside capital cities for up to five years, in a bid to tackle unplanned population growth.

Mr McCormack said the apprenticeships trial was "just another practical step to help create jobs and opportunities for small businesses and young people in the regions".

"A VET qualification is every bit as important to the economy as a university degree," he said.

Original article published in The Australian, October 31 2018.

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