Prime Minister Scott Morrison has used a visit to Townsville to promise an expansion of a government program to encourage new apprenticeships in regional areas.
Townsville tradies see apprentices as the future of their businesses and the federal coalition has promised to help them.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison toured a residential building site in the north Queensland city to meet apprentices and see the work on an innovative project that’s part of the NDIS, creating homes that enable people with disability to live alone.
The coalition is promising to double the size of a trial program that encourages regional businesses to take on apprentices by having taxpayers help cover their wages.
Jobs and employment opportunities are hot topics in the north Queensland town, which is in the nation’s most marginal seat of Herbert, held by Labor’s Cathy O’Toole by 0.02 points.
Unemployment in Townsville was eight per cent in February, well above the national average of five per cent, and more than one in six young people are jobless.
Liberal candidate for the seat Phillip Thompson said this was part of the reason he put his hand up for politics, motivated by his daughter who is about to turn one.
“I didn’t see a future for her here. I didn’t see where she would fit in, that she would have to travel, would have to move to the south-east corner,” he told reporters on Friday.
“I can tell you now, I don’t want to lose any more young people or anyone to the south-east corner.”
Sonya Corkery, manager of Electrotek Queensland which is doing work on the house, said they had employed three apprentices under the wage subsidy program already and would take any government help they could get to put more people on.
“Apprentices are the future of our business,” she told AAP.
“Because we’ve had a situation where not as many apprentices are coming through, we’re feeling that there’s a bit of a shortage of talent in the community so the best way for us to move forward is actually to upskill those talents directly.”
She conceded it was sometimes hard to find people committed to making a career as an electrician because apprentices were often young people just out of school and uncertain about their future.
The apprenticeship trial was oversubscribed within weeks of it starting in January, the government says.
Under the program, taxpayers cover three-quarters the wages of a first-year apprentice, half for a second year and a quarter in the third year.
It will cost another $60 million to expand from 1600 apprentices to 3200.