(Australian Associated Press)
More apprentices and trainees will be eligible for a wage subsidy scheme covering 50 per cent of new hires’ wages.
Employer groups have called for the extension since the cap of 100,000 new starters was met within five months of the $1.2 billion scheme starting.
The existing program covered apprentices or trainees wages for people hired between October last year and the end of September this year.
Under the expansion, employers will receive the 50 per cent subsidy for up to 12 months for any apprentice or trainee engaged before September 30.
The payments will remain capped at $7000 a quarter.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Tuesday the limit on places would be scrapped as the program moves to a demand-driven model.
“Our way out of the COVID-19 recession is to keep investing in these skills and ensuring that we’re bringing more and more people into these industries to meet the country’s challenging workforce needs into the future,” he told reporters.
The government predicts the expansion will generate about 70,000 new apprentice and trainee places.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union wants the subsidy used for increases to apprentice wages instead of propping up business profits.
AMWU national secretary Steve Murphy said first-year manufacturing apprentices were receiving $11.35 an hour under the award.
“Apprenticeships are slipping out of reach for anyone who doesn’t have parental or partner support,” he said.
“This investment must support apprentices to learn valuable skills, not be another way for big business to boost profits while exploiting apprentices as cheap labour.”
Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said the coalition had reduced apprentice numbers since coming to government and cut money from training.
“This government is now playing catch up footy and there is a long way to go,” he told reporters in Sydney.
According to government statistics, almost 40,000 businesses have been receiving the subsidies with construction and food and beverage services the leading industries.
Bricklayers, carpenters and joiners have been the leading occupations, followed by electricians and mechanics.
Of the 100,000 registered apprentices and trainees, more than half were aged under 25 with a further 27,000 between 25 and 44.
The Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements program was announced in last year’s budget as a measure designed to shield training from the coronavirus pandemic.