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HVTC fears budget decisions will fuel unemployment fire


HVTC (Hunter Valley Training Company) CEO Sharon Smith is concerned skill shortages and youth unemployment will continue to climb after funding cuts to critical apprenticeship programs were announced in the Federal Budget.
The Tools For Your Trade program, which provided $5500 over the course of an apprenticeship to assist with training and tool costs, will cease from 1 July.
The government has also abolished the Australian Apprenticeships Access Program which provides pre-vocational training and support for vulnerable job seekers experiencing barriers when trying to enter skilled employment.
“The decisions announced in the Federal Budget to scrap funding to these vital programs is a major concern for us and for other group training organisations across Australia,” Ms Smith said.
“For almost 15 years, these employee incentives have played a part in addressing financial disadvantage and helping many young people to remain in their apprenticeships,” Ms Smith said. “The Fair Work Commission decision last year to increase apprentice wages helped apprentices, however this was an increase that was taken on by employers who are already doing it tough.”
“The budget message is that we all have to make sacrifices, but skills training and supporting employers to take on trainees and apprentices, needs to be a national economic priority as it plays a fundamental role in ensuring our future remains sustainable.”
The cessation of these programs is combined with a raft of decisions that will directly affect young people, including the ‘earning or learning’ policy for those under the age of 30.
“We are already faced with a growing youth unemployment issue and a wide range of national skills shortages. We fear that the decisions made in the Federal Budget may further fuel the fire,” Ms Smith said.
A small win for apprentices is the government’s plans to introduce the Trade Support Loans program allowing apprentices to access loans to pay for tools and training costs. Apprentices will get a 20% discount off their loan on completion. Ms Smith said there was no mention of the continuation of the vital Joint Group Training (JGT) Program, which plays a pivotal role in enabling group training organisations like HVTC to train local youth to meet the employment needs of many businesses. It is currently under review.