Tradie war: PM to battle Labor on apprentices

Scott Morrison in Townsville yesterdy. Picture: AAPScott Morrison in Townsville yesterdy. Picture: AAP

Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten are locked in a political clash to win tradies’ votes, as the government invests $60 million in a regional apprenticeship scheme aimed at giving a leg-up to an extra 1600 young Australians.

The additional funding will help small businesses cover the cost of taking on new workers and comes after Labor prioritised skills and TAFE funding as a frontline election issue.

The Prime Minister will today announce a re-elected Coalition government will double the size of the Australian Apprentice Wage Subsidy Trial, first unveiled in ­October. The extra funding will increase the placements in the scheme from 1600 to 3200 and ensure more businesses receive subsidies to take on apprentices.

“Apprenticeships unlock a lifetime of job opportunities,” Mr Morrison said.

“Last year alone we created 100,000 jobs for people and this pilot will deliver an extra 1600 opportunities for apprentices across regional and rural areas.”

“We want to get more young people into work. We’re backing 1600 new sparkies, plumbers, mechanics, hairdressers and painters. They will be learning their trade in regional Australia, where these skills are needed.

“Learning a trade is just as valuable as a university degree. That’s why our plan for a stronger economy will invest in skills to help create 1.25 million jobs over the next five years, including 250,000 new jobs for young Australians.”

The announcement follows Mr Shorten’s pledge to pay the upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE places and inject an additional $200m to renovate campuses in regional and outer suburban Australia.

Minister for Skills and Vocational Education Michaelia Cash also created headlines earlier this month when she warned Labor would take away tradies’ utes under Mr Shorten’s plan for 50 per cent of new car sales to be electric vehicles by 2030.

Senator Cash yesterday argued the Opposition Leader was opposed to the wage subsidy scheme, warning the “jobs of 3200 apprentices will be at risk under a Shorten Labor government”.

Under the wage subsidy trial, the government will provide a subsidy to an employer over three years of an apprenticeship by providing 75 per cent of the first-year award wage, 50 per cent of the second-year award wage and 25 per cent of the third-year award wage.

Eligible businesses can gain an average of $37,000 over a three-year period. They will need to hire a full-time apprentice undertaking a Certificate III or IV qualification that leads to an occupation from the National Skills Needs List.

The government said its program was already benefiting more than 450 apprentices in NSW, 330 in Victoria, 400 in Queensland, 100 in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania and about 50 in the Northern Territory.

Labor has attacked the government’s program as a One Nation-inspired “bush wage’’ apprentice subsidy. Opposition spokesman for apprenticeships Doug Cameron has argued the scheme rewards businesses that pay minimum wages and overlooks employers whose staff are on enterprise agreements.

In his budget reply speech, Mr Shorten said a Labor government would make it a rule that one in 10 people employed must be an apprentice. The Opposition Leader said a Labor government would train 150,000 apprentices for the “jobs of the future”.

He also used the address to describe the election as a “referendum on wages”.

“Over the last six years under the Liberals, the number of apprenticeships has fallen by 150,000,” Mr Shorten said.

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