By Ron Maxwell - CEO
Recently the Australian Government announced an additional $1.2 million in funding for the Boosting Apprenticeships Commencement (BAC) initiative. This investment is a critical one for the future of individuals and industries, and something we can all benefit from. So today, I want to talk about some of the reasons this initiative should be welcomed by everyone.
Research by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) into the impacts of previous financial downturns, such as the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, highlights that apprenticeship numbers are linked to economic cycles. When there is a downturn, apprenticeship numbers often drop rapidly. This is always a concern but perhaps even more so during the current downturn, where so many people, businesses and industries have felt the impact.
According to The Lowy Institute, COVID-19 is estimated to leave Australia with a staggering $184.5 billion deficit this financial year alone. Addressing unemployment and developing and maintaining a skilled labour force is vital to our economic recovery as the pandemic recedes.
A critical initiative to combat youth unemployment
It’s well documented that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on young people and ensuring we avoid a youth unemployment crisis in Australia is paramount, not only for individuals but for the whole economy. Long-term unemployment can have significant consequences for individuals and communities, and can lead to a raft of social impacts, from mental health issues to homelessness.
As JobKeeper comes to an end this month, initiatives that support youth employment will contribute to making the landing a little softer and provide opportunities for those in impacted industries and roles to consider new options.
Apprenticeships are a key mechanism for youth employment and can offer opportunities in a wide range of industries, many of which are facing skills shortages, such as the construction and automotive trades. In many of these industries, the job outlooks are incredibly positive despite the impacts of COVID-19.
The earn while you learn nature of apprenticeships also makes them suitable options for those who aren’t in a position to take time out of the workforce while they retrain. An apprenticeship offers the opportunity to find secure employment today while building towards a nationally-recognised qualification, and even the chance for those with an entrepreneurial spirit to run their own business in the future.
A boost to local employers
At VERTO, we’ve seen historic numbers of new apprenticeship vacancies in response to this government funding, and I am excited to see where this further boost will take us. For many businesses, particularly smaller, local businesses, the BAC funding wasn’t just a factor in their decision, it was the very reason they were able to take on an apprentice in a tough market.
It’s an important investment in the future of these businesses and an investment in the communities in which they operate. Employers are able to develop skills and grow their businesses while communities and individuals benefit from more job opportunities.
We saw a fantastic example of this in Broken Hill recently, where the BAC initiative enabled local business, GT Loader Hire, to take on their first apprentice with a view to taking on another in 12 months, growing the business and creating local jobs at a time when they are much needed.
Key to economic recovery
Apprentices have long been the backbone of the Australian economy, and when you consider all the impacts of recent events, not just COVID-19, but bushfires and floods, they are going to play a critical role in our recovery. But with current or looming skills shortages in many apprenticeship industries, if we don’t invest now, we may find ourselves in a difficult position.
I’ve talked before about a world without tradespeople, and the impacts of this would only be heightened as we rebuild. Ensuring skilled tradespeople have the financial resources to take on the next generation of apprentices is vital to the future of their industries and our economy.
The time to act is now
Today’s apprentices will be tomorrow’s skilled workforce who deliver the many new infrastructure projects that will form part of Australia’s recovery, but it’s important to note that it will be three to four years until these apprentices are fully qualified, so the time to act is now.