The Queensland government has watered down requirements relating to apprentice and indigenous participation on public-sector construction projects.

In a statement released last week, Education, Training and Employment Minister John-Paul Langbroek said rules requiring at least 10 per cent of labour hours on government building construction projects worth more than $250,000 or civil construction projects worth more than $500,000 to be undertaken by apprentices and trainees would be removed and replaced by new rules under which the aforementioned thresholds would be raised to $500,000 and $3 million respectively.

A rule requiring at least 20 per cent of the work done on government building and construction sites in specified indigenous communities to be undertaken by indigenous people from the region concerned is also being removed. Instead, the government has opted for less onerous arrangements which Langbroek says will require contractors to work with indigenous councils to maximise employment, training and business supply outcomes and will prioritise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander apprentices, trainees and workers on projects in their local communities or indigenous projects anywhere in the state designed by the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs.

While the new rules appear to water down the government’s commitments in these areas, Langbroek says the measures are still about promoting training and indigenous employment and  building on the School to Trade Pathway program and the Group Training Additional Apprentice Bonus incentives as part of plans to create an additional 10,000 apprenticeships over six years.

He also says the new policy, which will see separate policies in each of the aforementioned areas rolled into one, will reduce administrative costs and red tape.

“Our new policy regulating work on government construction projects provides opportunities for new apprentices and trainees while also supporting skills acquisition for those already employed in the construction industry,” Langbroek said. “We are working hard to reform further education and training in Queensland and this policy will give apprentices and ‘tradies’ greater flexibility and better outcomes by working on government building and construction projects.”

The new measures come amid ongoing fears of a skills shortage within the construction sector toward the middle of the decade as building activity picks up.

Langbroek says the government will consult with both indigenous councils and the construction industry prior to the changes on July 1.