Simon Birmingham’s claim today that the start of the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network is the ‘biggest reform’ to the sector in more than two decades is laughable.
What the Abbott Government has really done is cut $10 million a year from Australian Apprenticeship Centres, rebadge them and add to their workload.
This raises concern about whether the network can meet the new demands upon it with greatly reduced funding. Labor will be monitoring this closely as the network gets underway.
Other ‘reforms’ delivered on Senator Birmingham’s watch include cutting over $1 billion from programs that support apprentices, such as Tools for Your Trade, access and mentoring programs, support for adult apprentices and Joint Group Training.
The Minister should not be boasting about wielding the axe on apprentices or claiming this as a reform and a success. The take-up rate for the new Trade Support Loans is proof of the Abbott Government’s failure in this area. Latest figures show that only approximately 24,000 apprentices have taken out one these loans.
In 2012-13, 236,600 payments were made to 192,666 Australian Apprentices under the now-scrapped Tools For Your Trade program.
The Minister has previously said he is working on policies and strategies to improve Australia’s apprenticeships system, but all his Government has delivered is cuts.
With apprenticeship starts and completions now down 20 per cent, the Minister should stop bragging about his Government’s cuts and start looking at positive strategies to help Australian apprentices.