- The federal government has committed $2.7 billion towards apprenticeships in the federal budget, but Labor says it's not convinced it can deliver.
- 141,000 Australians have signed up to become apprentices since October 2020, however new data signals a decline in the overall number of apprentices since the Coalition came into office.
- Opposition skills spokesman Richard Marles said the data shows a disconnect between the Morrison government's policies and their success on the ground.
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New data reveals there are 150,000 fewer apprentices than when the Coalition took power eight years ago, as Labor casts doubt on the effectiveness of the government's skills and training programs.
Following the announcement of a new $2.7 billion investment in training and apprenticeships in last week's Federal Budget, Labor cited the figures as evidence the government's policies have been ineffective in getting more people into jobs through trades.
The new figures from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment show that in September last year, there were 42,614 fewer apprentices in New South Wales than there were in 2013, marking a 33% drop. Likewise, in Victoria there were 38,883 fewer apprentices, or a drop of almost 40%.
The overall decline has meant that nationally there were just 264,425 apprentices in September, compared with 412,727 in 2013.
Furthermore, data from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research show that while the numbers of people starting and completing apprenticeships reached an all-time high in 2013, they have dropped every year since.
The Morrison government's training plan
In last Tuesday's Budget, the government extended its wage subsidy scheme to boost apprenticeship commencements. Under the program, employers will receive $7000 during the first year of an apprentice's salary.
The scheme was awarded an additional $2.7 billion in funding to run for an extra year up to March 2022, and remove a previous cap on the number of places.
In addition, the government's JobTrainer program targeting 18-24 year-olds was given an extra $500 million, matched by states and territories, resulting in an extra 163,000 places.
The investment came at the expense of universities, which saw further cuts to funding for domestic students, following a bruising year of job cuts and financial losses.
The Budget papers suggest the government expects its funding will add 170,000 more apprentices to the 100,000 it predicted would start when the scheme began last October.
Current figures show that around 53,886 employers, managing 141,431 apprentices have registered for the scheme during that period.
Labor doesn't buy the government's forecasts
Opposition skills spokesman Richard Marles pushed back on those projections, stating that Labor was doubtful the government could deliver on its plans to rapidly ramp up its apprenticeship programs post-pandemic.
He said the government's projected figures were unrealistic given the evidence its programs up to this point have not delivered.
"After years of funding cuts to the sector and fewer apprentices, Scott Morrison is now telling Australians they should believe he will now more than double the national total in 18 months," Marles said.
Employment Minister Stuart Robert hit back at those claims, arguing its plan for new apprentices was already growing the talent pool.
"It is the Morrison government who supported over 141,000 apprentices through direct wage subsidies, with the federal budget outlining support for a further 170,000 new apprenticeships and trainees," he said.