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Cautious approach needed on apprenticeship quotas: ACCI

09 June, 2016

Labor is right to seek ways to reverse the slide in apprenticeship numbers but its proposal for quotas on government-funded infrastructure projects needs to be considered with caution, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said recently.

James Pearson, CEO of the Australian Chamber, said: "Australia needs urgent action to rebuild the apprenticeships system across the economy so a major announcement on apprenticeships by the Labor Party is heartening.

"As we explained in our Top 10 in 10 steps towards a more competitive Australia, we must arrest the decline in apprenticeships and traineeships, which have fallen from 516,000 to 295,000 in just four years.
"Several initiatives in Labor’s announcement are worth considering, including better connecting job seekers to apprenticeship opportunities. But these will have only limited impact because the decline is largely the result of poor policy decisions and cost increases.

"Apprenticeship numbers in the construction industry today are near record highs, but other industry sectors have hit rock bottom. The best solution is for government to work with all industry sectors to build the business case for employing apprentices, rather than setting quotas and increasing red tape in a sector that is already doing fairly well in offering apprenticeships.

"We are also concerned that a return to TAFE as a dominant single provider of important skills training will leave the system less responsive to the needs of employers and apprentices.

"We look forward to plans from Labor and the Coalition to focus on future skills needs across the whole labour market. Retail, hospitality, health and aged care industries are the biggest employers of young Australians and are predicted to have strong employment growth in the years to come. Ignoring apprenticeship opportunities in these industries could constrain growth.

"We need to stop the blame game between political parties and state and federal governments about the slide in apprenticeships. Both Labor and the Coalition at federal and state level are responsible for policies in recent years that have led to the decline in apprentice numbers.

"The next Federal Government must work with industry to reverse the fall in apprenticeship commencements by improving the business case for employers to offer opportunities, particularly to young people that need a reliable pathway from school or unemployment into work."

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Hedley James | Friday, June 10, 2016, 3:25 AM
No one has so far nominated what it costs an employer over the four years to take on an apprentice. Has anyone ever done the numbers? First there are the TAFE/uni fees that range between the States. Then we have the in-house training that has to occur with all apprentices. That is where the foreman or a senior trades person gives one-on-one instructions to get the apprentice started on an operation that hasn't been done before. Plus the follow up training to assist the apprentice to actually gain the skills on the job. That is where the apprentice needs to reach an efficiency level to reach the target hourly charge rate. This doesn't come after the first training. It takes time on the job. In my shop, and in my training material, I have 5000 (thousand) words just to cover the inspection work on small part of what an apprentice will have to know when working on a crankshaft. How about $40,000.00 per apprentice over the four years? Do the numbers in a shop that actually trains an apprentice and the reality of apprentice costs leap out and perhaps explains the low number of apprentices. It isn't commercial in many businesses now let alone after the proposed higher TAFE fees being proposed by our politicians. Perhaps there's a better way?