A Wimmera trade and construction company is planning to increase the number of apprentices it takes on in the next year, with a new government incentive providing extra encouragement.
Since Monday, businesses that hire a new or recommencing Australian apprentice have been eligible to ask the Federal Government to pay half that apprentice's salary for a year.
The scheme, capped at 100,000 places nationwide, is a 2020 budget measure the government has announced ahead of handing down the full document on Tuesday night.
Corinne Hopper, CEC Hopper and Sons group's human resources manager, said the number of new apprenticeships dropped with the second round of stage three COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria.
"The government is committing up to $7000 per quarter, so it's definitely a significant support," she said.
"We are definitely looking to expand into electrical, plumbing and building. As a company, we would hope between this and next year we grow our apprentice profile by 10 to 15 people on top of the roughly 15 we've already got.
"Essentially the incentive will help with their school fees, and it broadens the range for the kids to come and get their apprenticeship. If we didn't have it, the 10 to 15 (new apprentices) would be five.
"Apprentices are the future of the business, that's why it's important to maintain apprentice growth. The wheels are in motion for happier days after 2020."
St Brigid's College student Reuben Elliott, who turns 17 this month, is one of CHS group's new apprentices. He will be specialising in building and construction from January.
The investment means he can continue on his desired career pathway despite the pandemic.
"I was hoping to get an apprenticeship by the end of this year. If I didn't I'd have had to stay at school, but I'm keen to get out into the workplace," he said.
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"I'm ready to start earning some money. It's pretty hard learning at home, a bit harder to keep on top of work when you're not actually there with the teachers."
Reuben said there were benefits to starting an apprenticeship compared to higher education after finishing school.
"Trades are pretty well sought after now," he said. "Not many people want to do it because you have to get your hands dirty, but at the moment there are a lot of apprenticeships being advertised."
Reuben eventually hopes to build his own house to live in. But short term, he's hoping the virus can be controlled, or a vaccine found, so he can see his friends again.
His mother Jane, a receptionist at Wimmera Health Care Group, said the pandemic had been particularly hard on young adults.
"I hope small businesses and mid to low income people get looked after," she said.
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