Subject: (Australian Apprenticeship Support Network)


SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Thank you so much for coming out this morning for the announcement regarding the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network. It’s great to be here with Brihony from MEGT, one of the successful tenderers for services under the support network, and Steve from Brighton Bricklaying and Dave, his apprentice, who are joining us today and have us on site to demonstrate, of course, the importance of apprenticeships in Australia.

This is an exciting new programme, the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network, in which we are providing additional support to attract, train and retain apprentices throughout their apprenticeships. This is a $200 million per anum investment by the commonwealth government to approve completion rates in apprenticeships and traineeships around Australia. 

The old models of apprenticeships, in which we saw completion rates under Labor of around 50%, are quite unacceptable and we want to drive those completion rates up by providing better services upfront in terms of the selection of apprentices, better services throughout the apprenticeship to help the apprentice and the employer in giving them the support when they need it to see through the apprenticeship and make sure that it is as simple as possible in terms of the administration and the paperwork for employers to take on more apprentices around Australia. 

There are around 360,000 people in apprenticeships and traineeships around Australia at present. It’s so critical to the future skills base of Australia that we get the apprenticeship system right because it provides early employment opportunities for many young people, new opportunities for mature workers to transition through and very importantly provides a basis from which many people, like Steve and others, go on to set up businesses in the future that support employment and economic activity right around Australia. Compared with the Labor party who cut in their final years of office some $1 billion from support for apprenticeships, this is an exciting new initiative that sees investment targeted in actual results. We’ve structured these contracts so that we actually will have the support in the areas where it’s needed and companies like Brihony’s will be paid more on outcomes and completions, rather than just on signups at the commencement of the apprenticeship.

Across Australia, eleven companies have been successful in the network tender across more than 460 locations around Australia. This has a broad reach to provide the services that employers need, more than 100,000 employers, to support more than 360,000 apprentices to lift completion rates beyond the 50% average we have today. It’s a very important initiative, it will commence from the 1st of July this year and I congratulate those eleven companies and I look forward to working with them to ensure the $200 million per anum investment that the commonwealth government is making delivers the best possible returns to get more people through apprenticeships and in to trades in to the future. 

JOURNALIST: Eleven companies seems quite low for a $200 million investment. Are you expecting more companies to jump on board?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I should explain…so eleven companies are the service providers who essentially act as the support agents for employers and apprentices. So, these are eleven service companies, like Brihony’s MEGT, around the country who will help employers select the right type of person to be their apprentice, ensure that person is in the right type of apprenticeship for them and ultimately then provide the services throughout the life of the apprenticeship. So, it will of course involve, as it currently does, more than 100,000 employers across Australia who engage apprentices, and I hope, many more apprentices to come because the important thing we’re trying to achieve here is to get more apprentices coming out at the end of the system, more people who complete their apprenticeship which gives us more skilled tradespeople and more entrepreneurs in our economy in to the future. 

JOURNALIST: What do you see this doing five years, ten years down the track?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I’m really hopeful this will significantly lift completion rates beyond the 50% at present to ensure we get greater numbers of tradespeople across our economy acting as employers and acting as entrepreneurs themselves in the future. I believe the changes we have made from the old Labor model, where we have adjusted things so that payments are more centred towards outcomes and payments are centred towards completions of those apprenticeships, puts in place incentives to ensure that the service providers, like MEGT, are really hands on in working with employers, like Steve, and apprentices, like Dave, to get them across the line of completion of their apprenticeship. There’s no point just churning more people through an apprenticeship, what we want is to get more people completing the apprenticeship. 

JOURNALIST: That sounds like a pretty good deal for guys like Dave?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: An apprenticeship is a great opportunity for Australians to get a start in a career. To get then a recognised qualification that allows them to build a business and a livelihood in to the future. So, apprenticeships have been, I think, iconic throughout Australian history. Most Australians recognise the value of an apprenticeship, the fact that it gives real hands on, on the job experience and what we want to see is more Australians accessing apprenticeships and even more Australians successfully completing them. 

JOURNALIST: and it will be sustainable to have so many new apprentices coming through, finishing five years down the track, you think?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Absolutely, we have skills shortages across a number of trades at present and our whole focus here is on improving the completion rate. Yes, we’d love to see more people commence apprenticeships, but at present we lose about half of the people who commence an apprenticeship to a non-completion. So, we want to get a greater than 50% completion rate and get more people that we've invested in in those early years, seeing the apprenticeship through to completion and getting that positive outcome.