A steep drop in the number of new apprentices and trainees has underlined concerns over impending skills shortages.
The National Centre for Vocational Education Research revealed an 11 per cent drop in apprenticeship and traineeship commencements in the 2020 March quarter compared with the same period last year.
As of 31 March 2020, 28,825 West Australians were in training, down 4.4 per cent from March 2019.
Commencements in WA for the 12 months to March 31 were 16,015 – down 4.7 per cent from last month.
The upcoming tightening of the Federal Government’s JobKeeper scheme has triggered concern among thousands of businesses who will no longer be eligible for the scheme, which props up many trainees and apprentices.
About half of WA businesses expect to stop receiving the subsidy after the rule changes take effect in late September.
But about 9000 WA businesses will still qualify for the Federal Government’s Supporting Apprenticeship and Trainees (SAT) subsidy – many unaware they remain eligible.
This has prompted a warning by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA (CCIWA) and Apprenticeship Support Australia to ensure eligible Western Australian businesses are ready to switch to SAT when they transition off JobKeeper.
Data from Apprenticeship Support Australia and CCIWA indicates that fewer than 50 per cent of eligible businesses in Western Australia are currently in receipt of the SAT subsidy, with the majority opting to receive JobKeeper instead.
Apprenticeship Support Australia and CCIWA have called for employers to stand together to secure our State’s skills pipeline, by safeguarding the positions of apprentices and trainees during this transition.
“Just because a business is no longer suffering a 30 per cent decline in turnover, doesn’t mean they’re in good shape,” says Apprenticeship Support Australia Manager Lena Constantine.
“If businesses don’t know they can still access support to help pay their apprentices, those apprenticeships can be at risk.”
She said the WA economy is “in no position to sustain further loss of apprenticeship numbers,” with “shockingly low” apprenticeship and traineeship commencement numbers released on Tuesday.
The SAT subsidy pays 50 per cent of an apprentice or trainees wage and does not require a business to show a turnover loss.
The scheme has been extended to businesses with up to 200 employees who employ an apprentice or trainee.
Meanwhile, the WA Government is offering up to $6000 to employers to take on a displaced apprentice or trainee during the COVID-19 recovery.
WA businesses looking for support recruiting and training an apprentice or trainee can contact Apprenticeship Support Australia.
Apprentices key to future
Richard Argus, who owns WA hydraulics systems company Fluid Line Services, says maintaining a solid base of apprentices was key to the success of his business.
“We’ve always committed to apprentices and the pains that that brings you because hopefully it also brings you rewards – it is investment in people,” he says.
“Young people, they’re going to have their ups and downs, and they’re going to need some support in the workplace and outside of it, they’re going to need some understanding. But you get through that…and you breed a lot of loyalty.”
He says the drops in people starting apprenticeships in his industry would stifle its growth.