FEATURE DOWN THE TRAINING TOOLS ISSUE THE APPRENTICE AUSTRALIA IS REPORTEDLY IN DESPERATE NEED OF MORE APPRENTICES. SO WHY ARE THEY SO IMPORTANT TO OUR COUNTRY’S FUTURE? pprentices – or lack of them – are big news at the moment. Last year just 57,000 people completed apprenticeships or traineeships, which is less than half that of five years ago. As Australian employers become increasingly desperate for workers to fill skills gaps and enable their businesses to grow, the government has stepped in to help solve the problem. Keen to offer school leavers an alternative to a university education, the government recently announced the Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program, a $1.5 billion national programme to help fill the current holes in the apprenticeship workforce. They hope the cash boost will change people’s opinions of on-the-job training. “While university is a critical element of our education A 12 GEMCELL.COM.AU OCT – NOV 2018 system, a vocation and technical education should be as prized as a university degree,” said Vocational Education and Skills Minister Karen Andrews when she announced the initiative. State governments are getting on board too. In June, the NSW government announced they’ll be making apprenticeships free across the state, so budding tradies won’t have to stump up the usual $2000 fee. The aim is to remove financial barriers for 100,000 apprentices over the next four years. The South Australian state government also recently announced it will invest $100 million in the Vocational Education and Training system to create an additional 20,800 apprenticeships throughout the state over the next four years. The shortage of apprentices is believed to be partly due to students feeling as though they haven’t had the necessary emotional or technical support during their traineeship. This means they drop out without finishing their training. In order to combat this, the $60 million Industry Specialist Mentoring for Australian Apprentices (ISMAA) program was announced last year. It aims to increase apprentice retention rates, particularly in the first two years of training. It provides support to apprentices to help them develop technical skills, give them motivation and confidence, provide them with positive role models within their industry and also offer support if they are struggling in their personal life. There are now benefits for employers hiring apprentices too. In Queensland, businesses who hire an apprentice get a discount on their Work Cover premium, and there are special payments for employers who hire an apprentice who’s over 25. There are also national incentives for those who hire apprentices in rural and regional areas, and those whose apprentices complete the course.