Businesses snap up $500 million in apprentice subsidies as COVID-19 sees commencements tank

Acting Minister for Industrial Relations Michaelia Cash. Source: AAP Image/Lukas Coch.

The federal government says $500 million in apprentice subsidies have been paid to more than 51,000 employers under its apprenticeship support program since April.

Unveiled earlier this year, the Morrison government’s “Supporting Apprentices and Trainees” program has been covering 50% of apprentice wage bills for eligible SMEs.

The program, budgeted at $2.8 billion, is slated to run until March 21 next year, under an extension to the program announced in July, with an estimated 90,000 employers expected to participate.

Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Michaelia Cash said the targeted support shows the federal government supports a “skilled economic recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This targeted financial support is providing rapid and direct assistance to protect jobs and keep businesses, apprentices and trainees connected to the benefits of training already undertaken,” Cash said in a statement.

The wage subsidy scheme, which is separate to the JobKeeper program, is being funded out of a larger $6.5 billion commitment to vocational education and training reform in 2020-21, which has also seen the Commonwealth pledge $500 million to an overhaul of the sector, in partnership with state and territory governments.

“We are working closely with jurisdictions to establish the $1 billion JobTrainer Fund, with a $500 million investment to the JobTrainer fund, matched by the state and territory governments,” Cash said.

“This will provide up to an additional 340,700 free or low-fee training places to help Australians upskill and reskill in areas of demand.”

The coronavirus crisis has been placing pressure on apprenticeship numbers, exacerbating a decline that’s been taking place for some time.

Figures released by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research this week found the number of Australians starting an apprenticeship or traineeship dropped 11% in the March quarter, with the biggest falls felt in food and construction trades.

NOW READ: Morrison’s “JobTrainer” pledges $2 billion for apprentice wage subsidies and vocational training reform

NOW READ: Apprenticeship numbers fall by 28%: What governments need to do to support SMEs


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