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Bowen to Macaulay: ALP VET package not restricted by occupation

Wednesday, 10 April 2019
By Jake Nelson

Skills commitment: Chris Bowen (left) and Andrew Macaulay.

Shadow treasurer and shadow minister for small business Chris Bowen has pledged that Labor’s skills training package will not be restricted by occupation, meaning that print apprentices will be able to access it.

At the Western Sydney Chamber federal budget luncheon, Printing Industries CEO Andrew Macaulay raised the issue of apprenticeship shortages for the printing and packaging industries to Bowen, and to Paul Fletcher, minister for families and social services.

“Printers and packagers are desperately seeking apprentices, there’s a real shortage in the industry, and yet we’re announcing VET packages that can’t actually be delivered to sectors of industry that need to employ people,” said Macaulay.

In response, Fletcher cited the government’s policy devoting $500m to skills training, including 80,000 new apprentices.

“One of the things we’re focused on is supporting Australians to move out of unemployment and come into work. There are opportunities, and views from employers in your sector are consistent with what I hear from others,” he said.

“I had the chance recently to visit a productivity boot camp in Penrith, with fifteen to twenty-one-year-olds mainly from schools in Western Sydney, getting essentially pre-apprenticeship training: an eight-week program working on a whole range of things, equipping them then to go and successfully compete for apprenticeships.

“That journey from school to work is a critical transition in people’s lives for a whole range of reasons, and some people find that more challenging than others, so we’re focused on facilitating their transition,” he said.

Bowen was critical of the policy, however, saying it didn’t go far enough to address the skills shortfall.

“While we welcome the government’s commitment to 80,000, that’s not enough. We’re 150,000 apprenticeships down since the change of government,” Bowen said. “Our package is a 150,000 package, which we do see as the minimum to repair the damage of the last six years. It’s a holistic package involving a combination of payments to employers and apprentices to get the apprenticeship going, and a big commitment to TAFE going forward; it’s also not prescriptive as to which trades it applies to,” he said.

If elected, Labor has promised to inject $1 billion into vocational education and training, including $200 million to overhaul regional and outer suburban TAFE campuses.

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