Mr BELL: I rise to talk about the Australian Apprentice Wage Subsidy scheme. I want to highlight a concern that Greg Megaw, the CEO of our local GTO, has contacted my office about. For those who do not know, the Australian Apprentice Wage Subsidy scheme, better known as the bush wage, sees a $60 million investment by the federal government. To be eligible, you need to be on the National Skills Needs List. The scheme pays 75 per cent of the first year of an apprentice's award wage, 50 per cent of the second year and 25 per cent of the third year. In total, it is worth around $37,000 to an employer taking on an apprentice.
The federal government has allocated 1,630 places for Australian apprentices under the scheme, but the problem is that GTOs are limited to a certain number. In South Australia, our pro rata number is 130 placements, and GTOs are only allowed to bid for eight of those. In my local area of the Limestone Coast, it is two. I would like to read out what Greg Megaw wrote to me regarding the possible reintroduction of the bush wage, which is currently being considered:
As discussed I congratulate the Liberal Government on the Bush wage initiative for apprenticeships in regional areas which I believe will help generate more jobs in [our] country regions.
The concern I have, is the amount of Bush wage placements, that Group Training Organisations [GTOs] will be able to access.
As you are aware, in many cases GTOs are the lifeblood of country towns and regions, providing employers and employees the support and guidance needed, to correctly navigate the employment of young workers through an apprenticeship.
These include [workplace health and safety guidelines] and support, assistance in rotating apprentices when work is short—
and that is quite significant for our region. If one employer is not able to continue with an apprentice due to availability of work or shortness of work, a GTO will take that apprentice and place them with another employer—
payroll services, employment of apprentices with disabilities or from disadvantaged backgrounds, mentoring to both apprentice and employer, career guidance to students, parents and [Vocational Education and Training] Coordinators at schools, addressing skills and labour shortages in regions through Try a Trade programs and an assurance that training covers all aspects of the trade in question.
Currently I have several long term Host Employers (10 years plus) who are looking at employing more apprentices through our GTO, but have conceded that if we cannot access the Bush wage (due to quota limits) they will have to directly indenture the apprentice themselves. These [Hosts] concede that the apprentices will not receive the same quality experience that a GTO provides by directly employing [the young person] themselves, but the financial assistance of the Bush wage outweighs this.
As you know all of the Bush wage funding is passed back to the Host Employer in question by the GTO so I cannot understand why GTOs are disadvantaged in this way.
GTOs work extremely hard to build relationships with Host Employers over many years, and to have this relationship exposed is heart breaking and I believe this would not have originally been the intention of the Liberal government when developing this policy.
As you know when word gets around that GTOs may only be able to access minor proportions of Bush wage funding—
and in our case, it is two—
they lose their appeal which is sad for the organisation, the apprentices in question and the regional area they provide assistance to.
Could you relay my thoughts—
through parliament and congratulate the Liberal government on this worthwhile initiative.