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It is undeniable that as a national community, we need highly skilled tradespeople engaged in training and employment for the sake of Australian industry.
The Trade Support Loans that the Government will provide to apprentices will ensure that young people are attaining the priority skills that they need for long-term employment and the skills that Australia needs for productivity and competitiveness.
These loans will provide up to 20,000 dollars over four years in a HELP-style concessional loan scheme to assist with the considerable expenses of living and learning. Apprentices will pay the loans back once they can afford to through the Australian Tax System.
This is a steady, manageable and reasonable means of repaying this loan. Contrary to the perception of the Greens, this loan will take on average five years to repay – not fifty.
Apprenticeships are a valuable pathway into long-term employment, a worthy subject of investment by the Government.
The skills that apprentices gain are valuable to the Australian economy and to countless employers in need of highly technical skillsets across a wide range of areas. It is essential that where these skills are being acquired, there is follow through so that these skills are delivered to the economy.
The fundamental belief which underpins this Bill is that a technical skill is as valued, equal and important to Australia and to the Government as is a university degree.
That’s why this is such a landmark Bill, a Bill that has been a long time coming, because it finally sends and ratifies the message that young apprentices are some of the finest assets that the nation of Australia possesses, and that we don’t take them for granted. We want to support them just as we support our university students.
We certainly don’t view their craft as a second-rate skill, and we want them to follow through on their passion by completing their training and unlocking the opportunities awaiting them in the labour market so that these priority skills can be delivered to the Australian community.
Unfortunately, the statistics are that 20 per cent of trade apprentices drop out by the end of their first year and 30 per cent by the end of their second year. Overall, only half of apprentices that commence training will complete it.
Indeed, the first few years of an apprenticeship are challenging. They are difficult in many ways, but particularly the Government has heard that they are some extremely difficult years in terms of young people’s personal finances.
This is despite genuine employment prospects and earning potential which apprentices will eventually enjoy. If the government can provide young people with the financial support that they require, we can unlock for them and for the country the fantastic potential for the Australian trades sector. Completed training will more than pay off in a big way for apprentices themselves and for the economy at large.
These exciting loans will be available for eligible apprentices in less than a month, on the 1st of July. The promise is there for young people that if they stick with their trade, finish training and enter employment they will receive a 20 per cent discount on the amount of the loan that they must repay. That is almost a year’s worth of value for free, effectively a gift of 4000 dollars from the Government upon the completion of your training.
This 20% discount and the features of the loans scheme in general encourages apprentices to follow through, with the knowledge that when an often costly process of skills acquisition is cut short, it means that a big economic investment for the student is in vain and an opportunity is lost for the Australian economy.
We know how difficult it is for the genuine, enthusiastic young people who enter apprenticeships to feel like following through on their apprenticeships over multiple years is a viable option. That is why this Bill will do so much good in such a vital area, stimulating the economy in the long run where the most opportunity for productivity and growth exists.
I am pleased that among the list of priority skills and occupations, which will be determined at the discretion of the Minister for Industry, are traditional and popular trades such as plumbing, electricity and carpentry.
Given the ingenuity, insight and spirit of consultation with which the Minister has conducted himself in the preparation of this scheme, I am sure that many other vital and deserving trades will receive support with this Scheme.
The provision of this Scheme will support young Australians and incentivise them to fully attain their skills and enter the workplace, which is the best result for apprentices, the industry, and the nation.
What I appreciate about this Bill is that it will greatly benefit and encourage the thousands of technical college students and apprentices within my electorate. St George TAFE has been providing high quality courses for apprentices for decades, in the areas of automotive finishing, electrical technology and body repair as well as electro-technology and light vehicle technology.
With these trades support loans, the Government is investing in these Barton residents and the industries to which they belong.
The Government is finally sending the message that if you are in a trade, you are just as important and useful to your country as if you are in a university getting a Bachelors degree.
To invest in these young people who are gaining vital technical skills is to invest in our economy and our whole future as a nation.
I commend this Bill to the House.