The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) cautiously welcomes the federal government’s $2B commitment to improve funding subsidies for 100,000 apprentice jobs and support a vocational training program but warns more is needed and faster.

The ETU, along with other trade unions, has been advocating for investment in this area for months, amid predictions that the number of young people starting apprenticeships will fall by 36 percent, or 54,000 this year.

ETU National secretary, Allen Hicks, said the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison federal government has cut $3 billion from the vocational educational and training sector since 2013, letting apprenticeships and training places decline by 145,000.

“This funding announcement will go some way towards repairing the damage done by underinvestment in skilled trades apprentices in recent years, but you can’t fix the damage from over $3 billion in funding cuts by only putting some of it back. There is much more to be done,” said Mr Hicks.

The ETU has concerns this additional funding announcement comes on top of $688 million homebuilder package announced in June this year of which nothing has yet been spent.

“This Government is good at making announcements, but like the bushfire relief promised and still not delivered, Australians desperately need them to actually start delivering on them.”

The ETU also has concerns with how the money will be spent with the overemphasis on privatisation of vocational training in recent years leaving the door open to dodgy private training course providers profiteering from the new incentives without providing real training.

“TAFE needs a massive boost in funding to provide the skills and training needed across Australia, including for regional communities who are already suffering higher unemployment and industry impacts like the poorly managed energy transition and lack of national energy policy as well as the more recent COVID-19 crisis.

“The fact is, Australia will always need skilled tradespeople like electricians and linespersons. We’re glad the government is finally beginning to recognise the critical need to invest in those skills now, but more is needed so we don’t find ourselves with a shortfall in future years,” said Mr Hicks.

ETU National Apprentice Officer, Mark Burgess said:

“We will need to get more details on the funding package and will work with apprentices to ensure they are able to continue and finish their training.

“The challenge for us is this government has removed worker’s representatives from so many advisory bodies, we’re concerned the program won’t be fit for purpose.”

 Media contact: Eimear O’Sullivan 0419 499 886