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Junior Wage Increase

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Federal Government’s junior wage increase will destroy apprenticeship system.

Queensland businesses have failed to recover from a decision six years ago to increase apprenticeship wages by around 40 per cent. Although figures have flatlined for apprentices and trainees in the electrical sector, there have been disastrous reductions in the construction industry, Master Electricians Australia (MEA) has said.

MEA CEO Malcolm Richards said 2019 data released by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research showed how devastating the Fair Work Commission decision had been for regional Queensland in particular.

“The decision to lift junior apprenticeship wages has devastated business confidence,’’ Mr Richards said. “Now we’re seeing data that shows a 44 per cent reduction in the number of people starting trades in an area such as mining hub Capricornia over the last five years,’’ Mr Richards said.

“Taking on an apprentice is an expensive business as employers don’t start to see a return on investment until well into the third and fourth years.

“We knew this decision would lead to each employer taking on one less apprentice but it appears those predictions didn’t touch the surface in regional Queensland.’’

Mr Richards said the Queensland Government needed to develop a closer working relationship with the Federal Government to ensure the range of incentives across government programs to employ apprentices delivered results.

“One of the latest trends we are seeing is poaching of third and fourth year apprentices by competing companies, which is further eroding business confidence to take on an apprentice,’’ Mr Richards said.

He said current funding incentives by the Queensland Government placed far too many restrictions on business eligibility, with South East Queensland in particular locked out of funding and regional areas in need such as Capricornia not allocated enough funding to cover demand.

“The Palaszczuk Government needs to free up the system of incentive funding to allow businesses direct access to that funding so they have the confidence to take on more apprentices in the future.’’

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