The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has called on both major political parties to halt the “alarming drop” in apprenticeship numbers revealed yesterday.
According to data released yesterday by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, a not-for-profit body jointly owned by the states and Commonwealth, apprenticeship and traineeship commencements were 33% lower in March 2013 than they had been a year earlier. The number of apprentices who completed their training also fell 1% on a year earlier.
Over the 12 months to March 31, commencements fell 9.4% on the 12 months to March 2012.
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The bulk of this fall was in non-trade commencements, which fell 13.2%, while trade commencements remained steady.
Due to lags in the collection and analysis of the data, the figures only relate to the period to the end of March.
Since March, completion incentive payments to employers of apprentices have been slashed, saving the government $241 million over four years. Industry bodies have predicted this will lead to a further fall in apprenticeship numbers.
ACCI chief Peter Anderson said both parties had said they would boost apprenticeships, but neither had committed “reversing the damage to apprenticeship hiring done by four successive budget and mini-budget decisions to claw back employer incentive payments”.
“Unless urgent action is taken to restore incentive payments, employer confidence in apprenticeships will collapse in line with their capability to afford to hire. This equation will only get worse with some massive apprenticeship wage increases ordered by the Fair Work Commission coming into effect from next January.”
Last month, the Fair Work Commission raised the awards that govern apprenticeship wages, giving most apprentices, trainees and juniors a pay rise of between $60 and $100 a week.
This was slammed by ACCI, who described it as a “body blow” to the ability of employers to offer new apprenticeships.
However, it was welcomed by unions. The Electrical Trades Union said raising wages was an important step in attracting more people to undertake apprenticeships.