Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a new $2.5 billion JobTrainer program giving over 300,000 Aussies the opportunity to retrain and upskill as well as expanding the apprentice and trainee wage subsidy.
The package will support SMEs employing apprentices and trainees with a 50 per cent wage subsidy, up to $7,000 per quarter.
Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell applauded the measure, saying it will deliver the skilled workers that SMEs need.
Further, she supported the government’s expansion of the original stimulus package for an additional six months to end in March 2021, noting it is now available to businesses with fewer than 200 employees for apprentices employed from 1 July 2020.
“This is an excellent initiative that shows the government is responding to the needs of SMEs. This program expansion will mean up to 90,000 SMEs will be supported in keeping their apprentices and trainees in work,” Ms Carnell said.
“Importantly, this program is offering free or low-cost training to people in fields of study where jobs are available. It also provides SMEs with the skilled workers they need right now.”
Ms Carnell also noted that JobTrainer took on board the ASBFEO COVID-19 Recovery Plan, in particular its point that small businesses consistently report that availability of suitable labour remains a major challenge, and even more so in regional and remote areas.
“JobTrainer addresses these issues as well as the fact that the jobs and skills SMEs will need coming out of this crisis will likely be different to those that have already been lost,” she said.
“The package will provide school leavers with a pathway to practical qualifications and older people out of work with the opportunity to retrain at very little or no cost. The measures announced today will be a significant contribution to our national economic recovery.”
Industry body Business NSW also backs the government’s increased funding for existing apprentices. However, it also said more still needs to be done to encourage employers to take on new apprentices.
“On the down side, it is disappointing that there has been no announced increase in support for those wanting to commence an apprenticeship,” said Business NSW chief executive Stephen Cartwright.
“However, we remain hopeful that there will be additional announcements down the track to support employers who want to take on new starters.
“The nation is still at risk of significant skills shortages in three, four years’ time without new starters coming on board. But the government has shown it is serious about taking steps to address this issue now, and we commend them for it.”
Mr Cartwright said businesses will be heartened by the ongoing support for apprentices beyond 30 September, something he believed was looming large as an economic cliff.
Further, he noted that at the top of Business NSW’s agenda has been the availability of proper funding to train people for the jobs of the future and to close the skills gap.
“As part of the JobTrainer package, the National Skills Commission will need to ensure that the short courses being offered support people into employment or at least dramatically increase their chances of employment,” Mr Cartwright said.