The battle to drastically increase apprentice numbers is continuing with the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, today announcing a $60 million expansion of the Apprentice Wage Subsidy program.

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 wages.

Morrison said learning a trade was just as valuable as getting a university degree.

"We're backing 1600 new sparkies, plumbers, mechanics, hairdressers and painters. Importantly, they will be learning their trade in regional Australia where these skills are needed,” he said.

The apprenticeship trial was oversubscribed within weeks of it starting in January. 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 the program from 1600 apprentices to 3200.

The announcement follows a commitment by Labor Leader, Bill Shorten, to pay the upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE places and inject an additional $200m to renovate campuses in regional and outer suburban Australia.

It has made TAFE and apprenticeships a major election issue, a move welcomed by industry groups and employer bodies.

Master Builders Australia CEO, Denita Wawn, said it was good news for the construction industry.

“The doubling in the number of participants from around 1600 to around 3200 is good news for the thousands of building and construction businesses that are creating economic growth in rural and regional communities around the country,” she said.

“Master Builders has been calling on all parties at this election to commit to measures to boost the skilled workforce to fill the secure and rewarding career opportunities in our industry. So it’s good to see the Government building on its Budget commitment to fund 80,000 new apprenticeships in areas of skill need such as building and construction,” Wawn said. 

“Building and construction is the nation’s second largest industry and biggest provider of full time jobs.”

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