A federal government apprentice subsidy program which provides vital support to trade employers has been expanded after initial success.
The Completing Apprenticeship Commencements program will complement the successful Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements program, which was launched in early 2020.
The initial program provided a wage subsidy to employers who took on apprentices at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Skillinvest chief executive Darren Webster said the government support had be 'vital' in keeping Wimmera apprentices employed throughout the pandemic.
"It has certainly encouraged a lot of employers through the tough times, through COVID and recovering from COVID, to employ an apprentice when they may not have," he said.
Mr Webster said Skillinvest, which is a group training provider, had seen around 50 apprentices return to them when the pandemic first began in March 2020.
He said the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements program had bolstered apprenticeship numbers after the initial down turn, with more employers choosing to keep apprentices on the books rather than let them go.
"It has been essential I think. It has been a really good incentive. It is a really attractive incentive, you put an apprentice on and you are getting up to half of their wage paid for the first year," he said.
"Without government assistance, there would have been many, many that have lost their jobs. Government assistance allowed those apprentices and trainees to keep their positions.
"They weren't always being paid by the employer, but they were paid by these other incentives, so the employer kept them on."
From October, the Completing Apprenticeship Commencements program will add on to the earlier work by giving employers a 10 per cent wage subsidy for second-year apprentices and a five per cent subsidy for third years.
Mr Webster said the rollout of the new program had been "confused", but still praised the program for the support it provided to apprentices.
"It has been tough, but the good thing about the Wimmera is that apprenticeships have continued to operate," he said.
"People are still investing in their apprentices and trainees, which has been great. Without it, I think the landscape would have looked a lot different."
He said he was glad both the state and federal government had considered apprentices as part of the national recovery from COVID-19.
"From an apprentice perspective, the lockdown has slowed a lot of their training down, because they haven't been able to train," he said.
"They have gone through something they thought they would never experience, and hopefully, we are getting towards the end of that. It has been a challenge, but you learn some things from it as well.
"I think as we come out of the pandemic, I think people have certainly recognised how important apprenticeships, traineeships and employment have been through this period of time.
"The government is committed to ensuring apprenticeships, traineeships and training will be part of the recovery. Hopefully, they will continue to provide those incentives for people to do that.
For more information, visit www.dese.gov.au/boosting-apprenticeship-commencements.
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