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Apprenticeship program changes to deliver harmonisation and pay improvements

The Federal Government has launched the Ambassadors for Apprenticeships program designed to encourage young people to take up opportunities in apprenticeships and traineeships.

Among the changes mooted is a shift to a competency-based system that allows people to progress through their apprenticeship more quickly if they demonstrate that they have acquired the necessary skills.

There is also an initiative to encourage adult people to come back and do apprenticeships if they have got experience in the workforce.

The biggest change will be the government’s move to harmonise the systems. It’s a bold initiative given that recent attempts to harmonise OH&S laws across the states was anything but smooth sailing.

"In some states now a course can take you 24 months and it’s 48 months in another state," said Senator Chris Evans, Federal Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations (pictured above). "Some states don’t recognise each other’s qualifications."

"I’ve got a commitment from the state ministers to fix those problems to harmonise our apprenticeship systems and make sure that qualification in one state allows you to work successfully anywhere in Australia," he added.

A wages review is on the table as well. Fair Work Australia will be tasked with evaluating apprenticeship and youth wages.

"One of the reasons we can’t retain or attract young people in some of these areas is because they can earn much better money doing casual work that doesn’t require training," notes Evans.

The AMWU (Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union) has welcomed the decision regarding pay increases but has concerns about accelerating apprenticeships.

"At the start of the year, we were confronted with the worst crisis in training that we have seen in decades. Only 48 percent of apprentices were completing their training and becoming trades people," said Dave Oliver, AMWU National Secretary.

The key reasons why apprentices were dropping out were the low wages, and inadequate training or difficulties with their employer, such as only doing menial tasks.

Oliver had this to say about accelerating apprenticeships, "The qualifications must not be diminished. We need to be careful not to take the cake out of the oven too early."

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