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Welcome action on large and looming threat to apprentices

"The Australian Government’s announcement of the JobTrainer Skills Package is well-timed and targeted support for keeping apprentices and trainees engaged and in the workforce. Never has it been more important to support young people and the unemployed keep or re-gain employment," Innes Willox, the Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group, said today.

"The risk of losing apprentices and trainees currently employed was looming large. The Supporting Apprentice and Trainee Wage Support scheme will enable support for up to 180,000 apprentices and trainees until 31 March 2021, who are employed by companies with up 200 employees. This scheme effectively places a floor under the apprenticeship system and enables the continuation of the all-important skills development necessary for our post-COVID economic recovery.

"Today’s unemployment figures are a salient reminder of the pressures this year’s school leavers will be facing. Ai Group will work with the Government to identify meaningful ways to support youth. They should not have to unfairly bear the brunt of the economic impact of this pandemic, as they do in every downturn.

"The $1b Job Trainer Skills Package is also a welcome component of this announcement. Many people are currently dislocated from work. Providing free or low-cost opportunities for skills development is essential for their transition into new jobs.

"Importantly, the skills development will need to focus on where jobs will grow and include strong digital skills development. These are skills that everyone needs which have grown in importance due to pandemic-driven changes to our economy and the way we work.

"We have a good skills base but the data show a collapse in apprenticeship numbers. Since March, 25,038 apprentices and trainees have been stood down, suspended or cancelled and there are predictions there could be 78,000 fewer apprentices and trainees in training by December out of an in-training stock of only 196,930. More than a third of all our apprentices could therefore be out of training in months with massive impacts on our ability to provide skilled workers when our economy eventually rebounds.

"Given the clear risks to the livelihoods of too many of our youth and others that find themselves unemployed, and the risks to our economy, we urge the States to all commit to this funding arrangement with the Commonwealth as a matter of priority," Mr Willox said.

Media enquiries: Tony Melville – 0419 190 347