Employers will be given at least $1.2 billion to hire 70,000 apprentices in the next year in an uncapped job-creation plan the Morrison government hopes will avoid a youth unemployment crisis from the coronavirus pandemic.
As many as 100,000 apprentices have been employed through the existing wage subsidy scheme, which was announced just five months ago in October. More than 30,000 new apprentices have been hired in NSW, and almost 24,000 in Victoria, under the initial phase of the program that subsidised apprenticeships in a bid to stem an anticipated tide of job-shedding.
Business groups have called for longer-term incentives to hire young workers, who economists feared would bear the brunt of the COVID-19 recession. Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that by mid-February, the number of people in their 20s holding a job was down 2.5 per cent since the start of the pandemic. The next worst-hit age group were teenagers, down by 0.9 per cent.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will on Tuesday announce an expansion of the scheme, extending its operation for another 12 months and uncapping the number of apprenticeship places. The government expects the wage subsidy will support a further 70,000 apprentices to be hired in the next year.
“In less than five months, we have reached the target of 100,000 new starters under this program,” Mr Morrison will say at a speech to a business summit in Sydney.
“Taken together with the support for existing apprentices, that means over 222,000 apprentices and trainees are being supported by our wage subsidy programs, keeping our pipeline of skilled workers in place during a once-in-a-century global pandemic and recession.
“This will ensure an apprenticeship place is there for any Australian and every business who wants one as our economy recovers.”
The Australian Industry Group, which represents many apprentice-employing businesses, has called on the Morrison government to boost financial incentives.