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Review into apprenticeships amid calls for financial support

The future of support for automotive apprentices could hang in the balance as the federal government looks to investigate its success in helping fill the critical skills shortage.

The Australian Government has launched a strategic review of the Australian Apprenticeships Incentive System that began in 2022 and is programmed to run until the end of June 2024.

Whether cost of living pressures are having a major impact on the completion rates, how incentives are helping to fill businesses’ skills gaps and how the industry is adjusting to low-emissions technology are some of the areas under investigation.

Former Federal court judge and Fair Work Commissioner Iain Ross will lead the review with former secretary of the Department of Education, Lisa Paul.

The outcome will frame future government decisions on apprenticeship support in industry’s affected by critical skills shortages and what form they take after completion of the current system.

“Understanding the effectiveness of the Incentive System at this time of transition will enable the government to tackle cost-of-living pressures and lay the foundations for future reforms that maximise outcomes from the apprenticeships system,” the brief notes.

The support needed

The MTAA has already argued that the federal government must step up its financial support for apprenticeship in a budget submission.

The Automotive industry advocacy body wants some programs including the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy reinstated and funding locked into the May budget.

It argues the success of the scheme program along with the Completing Apprenticeship Commencements, both part of a former support program are critical in encouraging the uptake of apprenticeships and the relative fragility of many businesses still emerging from COVID demands the support.

It wants the reintroduction of the BAC set at a 15 per cent employer wage subsidy in the first year of an apprenticeship or traineeship for a further two-year period.

“The automotive industry is facing the most serious skills shortage in its history, “ the MTAA argues in its submission to the federal government.

“There is an estimated skilled labour deficit of 38,700 positions across the industry in 2022/23, which is forecast to rise even higher in 2024/25.”

One of the key issues facing the automotive industry is apprenticeship completion rates with some data highlighting less than one in two apprentices will qualify.

Industry-wide problem

A recent Capricorn State of the Nation Special Report; The Skills Shortage found 83 per cent of paint and panel businesses had employed an apprentice, however as many as 57 percent reported in the survey across the industry that they had lost an apprentice.

The MTAA also wants federal government support to expand a mentoring program undertaken in SA and NT that has completion rates over ninety per cent.

Past success

The Automotive Industry Mentor Program, run by the MTA SA and NT supports more than 400 program apprentices in South Australia and 110 in the Northern Territory and has managed to secure a retention rate of over 97 per cent of first and second-year apprentices in South Australia, and 98 per cent in the Northern Territory with particular success in mentoring First Nations candidates.

The federal government review, which has promised to consult with industry, will also look at engagement with under-represented groups including women, First Nations people and people with disabilities.

Read the MTAA’s full submission here and the terms of the federal government review here.

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