Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled subsidies for 1600 apprenticeships in regional Australia as part of a national job creation agenda central to the Coalition’s reelection pitch.
The Coalition will put $60 million more into incentives for employers in rural and regional areas suffering from skills shortages, doubling down on a “bush wage” trial that was launched at the start of this year.
“This initiative is about making sure there’s even more opportunities for our young people to learn a valuable trade, particularly in regional and rural Australia,” Mr Morrison said in a statement.
“We want to get more young people into work. We’re backing 1,600 new sparkies, plumbers, mechanics, hairdressers and painters. Importantly they will be learning their trade in regional Australia where these skills are needed.”
Under the program, employers receive subsidies covering 75 per cent of an apprentice’s award wage in the first year, 50 per cent in the second year and 25 per cent in the third year.
The announcement doubles a previous $60 million commitment for a first round of 1600 places launched in January. The government says the trials have been popular, with applications quickly outstripping the available funding.
The subsidies are in addition to a range of other incentives designed to boost apprentice numbers across the country.
In the April budget, the government outlined a $525 million skills package to fund up to 80,000 apprenticeships and assist the beleagured vocational education and training sector.
As part of its pitch to voters, the Coalition has pledged to create 1.25 million new jobs over the next five years, including 250,000 jobs for young people.
Small Business and Skills Minister Michaelia Cash criticised Labor for opposing the wage subsidy trials and called on Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to be clear if he would “rip up the wage subsidy”.
One Nation has claimed credit for the original trial because of its similarity to an apprenticeships proposal agreed to in a deal over the government’s company tax cuts.
While the minor party later reneged on the deal, ensuring the defeat of the tax cuts for large companies, Pauline Hanson has called the wage subsidy program “One Nation inspired”.
Labor senator Doug Cameron has criticised the program as an expensive and “ill-conceived Band-Aid”, arguing it won’t address the significant drop in apprentice numbers over recent years.
Labor has announced $1 billion in funding for TAFE places and incentives for 150,000 apprenticeships.