Government extends apprenticeship wage subsidy scheme, future beyond JobKeeper still uncertain



The federal government has extended its wage subsidy scheme for apprentices and trainees for another year, in a move it expects will generate 70,000 new positions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the scheme had reached its limit and had created 100,000 apprenticeships since it was started last October.

He said the cap on the program would be removed and it would become a demand-driven scheme, with an estimated price tag of $1.2 billion.

“We’re extending it out until the end of September this year, a full 12 months of support for these new apprentices coming on board,” Mr Morrison said.

“Those people aren’t just young people, about a third of those people who have come into this program have been aged over the age of 35.

Under the scheme, 50 per cent of the wages of apprentices and trainees are subsidised by taxpayers.

The program was the government’s way of securing work for apprentices amid fears the pandemic, and the economic downturn it caused, would have a crippling effect on employment.

The announcement comes as questions mount around what support the government will offer to businesses continuing to struggle under the ongoing international border closures once JobKeeper finishes at the end of the month.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is in Far North Queensland at the moment, but would not provide any information on the planned measures, telling Sky News the government was “still working through the details” and he would have more to say in the coming days.

A hairdresser wears a mask while brushing a woman's hair.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash says around 40 per cent of the people hired under the scheme so far have been women.(ABC News: Rachel Riga)

Subsidy extension applies to those already on scheme

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said the extension would mean any business that signed up a new apprentice between now and September 30 would get a full 12 months of the subsidy.

“And for those businesses who did the right thing and they assisted us getting those 100,000 new apprentices on the job … their apprenticeship wage subsidy will also be turned into a full 12-month wage subsidy,” she said.

“Today, we uncapped the program so across Australia, any business, any size, any region, can now sign up apprentices.”

Senator Cash said it also applied to anyone looking to recommence their apprenticeship.

Earlier on Tuesday, she told Channel Nine around 40 per cent of the 100,000 new positions created went to women — more than expected.

“I think its around 36 per cent of the new commencements have been women, so that’s actually above what you’d normally see,” she said.

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