Cautious response

RECENTLY-announced changes to financial incentives paid to employers, by the Federal Government, are not expected to deeply impact efforts by the State Government to improve prospects for Gippsland apprentices; however, the timing of a new initiative has been greeted with some concern.

Group Training Association of Victoria executive director Gary Workman said he was “a little surprised” by some of the changes announced, which will see a reduction in financial incentives paid to employers of some apprentices, as well as the introduction of the “Kickstart Bonus” which will increase the incentive paid to some employers by an additional $3350.

“The timing of Kickstart is something we are probably not 100 per cent happy with as it starts in December; if employers were wanting to take on an apprentice (they may wait) a few weeks and there is only a small window of opportunity,” Mr Workman said.

“There are some good and some bad (policy changes); a lot of cuts have been made to non-skill shortage areas, in line with a reduction in training funding to TAFEs and such.”

Mr Workman said he did not expect the changes by the Federal Government to affect the Gippsland Apprentices Program, which GTAV implements.

“The GAP is specifically targeted to apprentices out of trade; the eligibility is different and the employer would have to make a choice, you can’t get both,” he said.

“Kickstart applies to new apprentices while the GAP is for apprentices who recommence employment.”

He said the GAP was progressing well, with more employers looking to complete outstanding jobs by Christmas.

Under the government’s apprenticeship overhaul, changes included incentives for employers to hire apprentices on a full time basis, as well as the doubling of incentives paid to “traditional” trades employers, such as plumbers, electricians, carpenters and other construction tradespeople.

The Kickstart initiative will give employers who take on an apprentice between December 2012 and February 2013 an additional $3350 payment in two instalments, in a bid to boost traditional trades.

In a statement, Federal Skills Minister Chris Evans said the boost was needed because “conditions in the housing sector are set to improve into 2014 and 2015”.

In elaborating on some of the changes, MEGT Australian Apprenticeships Centre area manager Russell Cook said from 23 October 2013, except for aged care, child care and enrolled nurses, diploma and advanced diploma Australian Apprenticeships would no longer be eligible to attract certain employer incentives.

Mr Cook also said there would be reductions in financial incentives for part-time Certificate III and IV Australian Apprenticeships to $1500, paid upon completion.

“This change will mainly affect our local retail businesses that employ part-time staff under a traineeship, but there may be other businesses in the region that will also be affected,” Mr Cook said, adding there were exceptions for industries on the National Skills Needs List, including school-based trainees.

The Express read a letter to a local employer earlier this month, advising of changes to the employer incentive.

The letter said a completion incentive (of $2500) would only be paid where the apprentice, who commenced before 23 October 2012, completed prior to 1 July 2013.

Meanwhile, State Skills Minister Peter Hall recently told The Express the removal of some incentives was “a bit of a discouragement” given the majority of employer support came from the Federal Government.

“That said, the biggest influence on apprentice numbers is the state of the economy; simply, if (employers) haven’t got jobs for apprentices, they won’t take them on,” Mr Hall said.

A spokesperson for Mr Evans denied changes at a federal level would have any impact on the continuation of the GAP.