Feds tackle shortfall in apprentices

On Friday Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the new Apprentice Kickstart program, which will support up to 21,000 young Australians entering traditional trades this summer.“The government’s Apprentice Kickstart will more than triple the first year bonus paid to employers who take on traditional trades apprentices this summer,” Gillard said.“We’re boosting the commencement bonus from $1500 to $2350 and then following up with another $2500 at nine months which means employers will now receive $4850 in the first year for taking on a traditional trade apprentice over the summer.”The program will be paid for as part of funding secured by both the Greens and Family First Senator Steve Fielding as part of the government’s economic stimulus package.The new apprentices will also be among the first to undertake mandatory green skills as part of their training.Minister for Employment Participation Mark Arbib said in the past year traditional trades apprentice starts had dropped by about 10,000.“We know that in the 1990s, apprentice commencements took a decade to bounce back to pre-recession levels,” he said.“That created a skills shortage that held Australia back and we don’t want history to repeat itself.“This bonus will fast-forward hiring decisions to bring apprentice numbers up to levels before the global recession. We need to prepare now for when the Australian economy recovers.”The Apprentice Kickstart program has been welcomed by the Australian Industry Group, Master Builders Australia (MBA), the Australian Constructors Association (ACA) and the Australian Apprentices Taskforce.Ai Group chief executive Heather Ridout said the increase to employer incentives will be a major boost to the confidence and capacity of employers to take on young people.“This is particularly timely action as we are entering the main recruitment period for school leavers to commence as apprentices in 2010,” she said. MBA chief executive Wilhelm Harnisch said there was currently a shortfall of nearly 5000 building apprentice commencements.“The government’s Apprentice Kickstart program is strongly supported because of its focus on encouraging employers to take on younger building apprentices during the current soft conditions in the building and construction industry, and its forward-looking focus on green skills,” he said. ACA president Wal King said the initiative would prevent the mistakes of past downturns from being repeated.“A healthy Australian economy is reliant on a strong skills base,” he said. The new incentives will be available to all employers who take on an apprentice aged 15-19 years between December 1, 2009, and February 28, 2010, or until 21,000 apprentices have begun in trades hardest hit by skills shortages.This includes butchers, bakers, bricklayers, carpenters, electricians, hairdressers and pastry cooks.

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