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NSW Offers Free Apprenticeships to Address Skills Shortage


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The NSW government unveiled a $285 million plan to fund 100,000 apprenticeships over the next four years, with TAFE enrolments for apprenticeships now free. In tandem with its announcement about NSW tender changes, it seems clear the government hopes to address the growing skills shortage within the construction industry.

Just a month ago, in his speech to NSW Business Chamber, TAFE NSW managing director Jon Black highlighted that enrolments for TAFE’s most popular 20 diploma courses have more than halved over the past two years, especially in areas where there is already a skills shortage. Building and construction enrolments were down by 80 per cent, and there was an estimated shortage of about 50,000 construction workers on projects across the state.

“This, I hope, will turbocharge how many people will look at becoming a tradie going forward."

“This, I hope, will turbocharge how many people will look at becoming a tradie going forward,” said NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro at last week’s budget announcement.

The NSW government decided to ensure a significant proportion of all positions on substantial infrastructure and construction projects were allocated as learning positions. In that announcement, The Premier said thousands of tradie apprenticeships would be created, and the apprentices would fill a fifth of trade roles on all future construction projects. 

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the measure would create positions for at least 4,000 apprentices over the next four years. 

“With the record $80 billion in infrastructure projects over the next four years, the NSW Government is in a unique position to support young people in acquiring the skills they need for the jobs of the future,” Ms Berejiklian said. 

“We want to make sure the next generation of workers at school or in tertiary education have the skills and opportunities to build great careers, and this is why we are announcing 20 per cent of tradies on major construction projects will go to apprentices.”  

In March 2018, the Federal Department of Jobs and Small Business released its skills shortage list for NSW with construction-related roles dominating the list. Among those, trades suffering a statewide shortage are: carpenters and joiners; painting trades workers; fibrous plasterers; plumbers; cabinetmakers; electricians; locksmiths; glaziers; roof tilers; wall and floor tilers; structural steel and welding trades workers and; fitters and metal machinists.

“The Infrastructure Skills Legacy Program will guarantee thousands of young apprentices start work on government projects, leaving behind more than bricks and mortar."

“The Infrastructure Skills Legacy Program will guarantee thousands of young apprentices start work on government projects, leaving behind more than bricks and mortar,” NSW Minister for Skills John Barilaro said. 

“The construction industry alone will require an additional 300,000 people over the next decade, and the single biggest threat to our infrastructure spending program is not having the workforce to deliver it.” 

With both recent announcements around the increase in apprentice positions on Government projects and the removal of TAFE fees for apprentices, the government hopes to improve the skills gap. It could not come at a better time, with $87 billion in infrastructure spending in the pipeline over the next four years.

The 100,000 free apprenticeships will become available from 1 July.

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