ELECTION WATCH - Apprenticeships – record Hawkesbury numbers, or “pulling the wool over our eyes"
Updated: Mar 3
There is no Federal election date yet but politicians of all stripes are very much acting as if there is, with increasing claims their policies are the best. Here at the Post we always look behind the numbers and the claims to get to the facts and add balance.
So, let’s get to this week’s subject - trade apprenticeships – and let’s hear both sides of the story.
Do we have record numbers of apprentices completing their courses across the Hawkesbury since the Morrison government came to power?
Yes, we do says the Coalition’s Minister Stuart Robert who oversees Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, and who sent out a media release this last week. although the numbers he quotes are people starting apprenticeships, not the numbers completing them.
Labor’s Susan Templeman, our current Macquarie Federal MP, points to this, saying the numbers being quoted by government ministers are “selective” and do not take into account how many apprentices actually complete their courses and so go on to find full-time trade jobs.
Minister Robert says the Hawkesbury is in the “midst of an apprenticeship boom”.
Ms Templeman says, “it’s yet another example of the Liberal marketing department believing it can pull the wool over the eyes of people in the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury by fudging the figures.”
In his media release, jointly penned with Senator Marise Payne, the Minister said, “the Morrison Government has delivered record levels of trade apprenticeships across the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury with trade apprentices continue to surge to record high levels across the country – reaching 220,000 in training in 2021.”
He also said, “new department program data demonstrates trade apprenticeships hit over 1425 in Macquarie in September 2021, the highest number on record and an increase of 21 per cent since Labor left office”.
Worth pointing out here that Labor was last in power federally almost a decade ago. Since Liberal Tony Abbott won power in a landslide in 2013, the Coalition have formed successive governments.
This government is the best friend tradies have ever had, says the Minister.
“Whether it's up in Katoomba or down in Richmond—the Blue Mountains and the
Liberal Senator Marise Payne
Hawkesbury are in the midst of an apprenticeships boom, there has never been as many Australians having a crack at a trade apprenticeship than today right here,” he said.
“Our record funding of $13 billion in skills and training funding through the pandemic has secured a generation of local Australian apprentices through the greatest shock since the Great Depression,” he says.
‘With the economy firing again, hundreds of thousands of jobs available and billions of dollars of skills funding on the table, this is a once in a generation opportunity for Aussies to get into a career that will last a lifetime.”
Of course this being an election year, it's not enough to spruik your achievements, the opposition has to be in the firing line.
And on this occasion that was mostly left to Liberal Senator for Western Sydney, Marise Payne, who said, “the facts speak for themselves, under Labor the youth unemployment rate was 12.7 per cent – its 9.0 per cent today. The unemployment rate has been coming down and jobs are being created”.
Women in apprenticeships has picked up substantially since the pandemic began
The number of Australians undertaking skills and training had surged, said Sen Payne, “with total in-training apprenticeships and traineeships for September 2021 at 355,488 up from 264,585 in September 2020.”
And there are more women in apprenticeships too, since COVID began, says the Senator.
“Our economic recovery plan has meant that there are 100,000 more women in apprenticeships and traineeships now than there were prior to the pandemic.
Reaching back a decade, the ministers said in their media release the “current surge in apprenticeships” contrasted with the experience of the final year of the former Labor Government, which according to official data saw the number of apprentices and trainees in-training “fall by 22 per cent, or 111,300 from June 2012 to June 2013”.
“This was as a direct result of policy changes introduced by the Gillard Labor Government in 2012 aimed at addressing widespread rorting of incentive payments to employers, which led to the sharp decline in traineeships witnessed from 2013," said the ministers.
“Macquarie lost one in five apprentices and trainees in Labor’s final year in office when in-training figures fell by 19 per cent (Jun 12 – Jun 13),” say the Coalition ministers.
MP Templeman joins a demo against Richmond TAFE cuts to equine courses
But Labor MP Templeman claims the government figures have been used selectively. She says,
“Under the previous Labor government, more than 1 million Australians completed their apprenticeships or traineeships in six years. Over the same period, this government has struggled to see more than 500,000 completions.”
“The Morrison Government can selectively quote whichever numbers suit them, but talk to any business in sectors from aged care to construction, and they will tell you there’s a skills shortage,” Ms Templeman said.
“The government has excluded from these figures trainees in child care, aged care and even those in the digital economy - essential workers who kept us going through COVID and who we just don’t have enough of, which is why the government had to bring in the Army to help.
“It also only takes into account apprenticeships started and not finished.”
“We need to increase the numbers of people doing apprenticeships and traineeship, and cancelling equine courses at North Richmond TAFE show the real agenda of the Liberals,” says Ms Templeman.
“An Albanese Government will create 465,000 free TAFE places, including 45,000 new TAFE places to help address skills shortages.”
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