Apprentices in construction and other industries will be hard hit by cuts to training programs and incentives outlined in last week’s Federal Budget, a senior minister within the nation’s only Labour state government says.
In a statement, South Australia Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills Gail Gago said the proposed cuts would lead to 20,000 fewer training places each year in her state alone, including 5,000 in regional areas, whilst the cancellation of the Tools for Your Trade program would create greater financial hardship for apprentices.
“This is exactly what we warned the public about in the State election earlier this year: the Liberal Party has turned its back on those who can least afford it, with radical cuts to basic public services,” Gago said.
“The Abbott Government has obviously forgotten that apprenticeship and training programs are the keys to opening opportunities and job prospects for many of Australia’s youth.”
Gago’s criticism follows the announcement in last week’s budget of a radical overhaul of funding arrangements for training and apprenticeships, under which the government will save $914.6 million over four years by scrapping the Tools For Your Trades Program and an additional $1 billion over five years by abolishing ten further programs - the former being partially replaced by a $439 million program over five years to provide loans of up to $20,000 to apprentices and the latter programs by the allocation of $476 million over five years to establish a new Industry Skills Fund.
Reaction amongst industry groups been mixed, with Australian Constructors Association Executive Director Lindsay Le Compte saying the new loans will help more apprentices to finish their training but Housing Industry Association Chief Executive – Industry Policy and Media Relations Graham Wolfe hitting out at the abolition of the National Workforce Development fund among other trashed programs and expressing concern about the restricted focus of the skills fund to select industries.
Gego says the budget will deliver an environment whereby training is limited only to those who can afford it.
“And what will happen to those young people who cannot afford the training?” she says.
“Will this budget mean they are sitting home on their couches, on the dole?”