The COVID-19 crisis has decimated apprentice numbers with Mitchell Institute figures showing Australia has lost 18,000 tradies since March, 2020.

Modelling released this week by the Mitchell Institute estimates 130,000 fewer new apprenticeship and traineeship opportunities for young people as a result of the economic fallout from COVID-19 over the next three years.

There will also be a reduction in apprenticeships and traineeships leading to a 50% increase in school leavers that will not be in employment, education or training (NEET).

Responding to the crisis, the Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC) has called on the Federal Government to extend the $130 billion JobKeeper Payment Scheme beyond September 27, 2020.

The aim is to protect refrigeration and air conditioning apprentices who have never been more valuable as Australia’s HVACR sector continues to struggle with an acute skills shortage.

According to ARC CEO, Glenn Evans, many employers will be forced to let their apprentices go once the JobKeeper Scheme ends.

“We have been in contact with the Prime Minister’s office lobbying for an extension to try and protect our apprentices,” he said.

“The Australian Government’s JobKeeper Payment Scheme has allowed refrigeration and air conditioning apprentices to remain employed.

“However, there are fears that when the JobKeeper scheme ends as scheduled on September 27, 2020, many employers will be forced to let their apprentices go.”

The call to extend support measures to trainees and apprentices was also supported by TAFE Directors Australia and the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group).

Ai Group CEO, Innes Willox, said without substantial support Australia is facing a dramatic decline in apprenticeship commencements which will contribute to an unacceptably high level of youth unemployment.

“Ai Group is calling for urgent action from the Federal Government to address the nose-dive in apprenticeship numbers partly brought on by the COVID-19 crisis,” he said.

The Ai Group has proposed the introduction of a universal Apprentice and Trainee Wage Support Scheme 2.0 (for first and second stage apprentices and trainees).

“This will be a constructive way to build apprentice numbers, provide youth with genuine employment opportunities and develop the skills required to lift our post-COVID economic recovery,” Willox said.

“The wage support mechanism would apply to all apprentices and trainees with a contract of training regardless of company size, number of employees, age, occupational groupings or geography.

“This program which we refer to as Supporting Apprentices and Trainees 2.0, should be available between October 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021.

“The timing is critically important as it could be phased in as the JobKeeper program is phased out.”

The JobKeeper wage subsidy has been provided to around six million workers who have received a flat payment of $1,500 per fortnight through their employer, before tax.


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