MS TIERNEY (Minister for Training and Skills) — I rise to update the house on the Andrews government’s support for apprentices in Victoria. As part of the
2017–18 budget, last Tuesday I announced an $8.2 million boost for apprentice support officers to ensure that Victoria’s first-year apprentices aged under 25 have the support they need to learn their trade and get a good job. Twenty-five support officers will be based at TAFEs across Victoria so they can continue mentoring and helping young apprentices with family, work and training issues that could affect their apprenticeship.
With the Labor government’s major projects skills guarantee, which ensures apprentices and trainees have at least 10 per cent of the work on Victoria’s major projects, we are creating thousands of opportunities for apprentices. This support is needed now more than ever. The program has helped hundreds of new apprentices and has boosted our retention rate 3 per cent for apprentices at risk of dropping out. Despite these excellent results the federal government has cut funding for the program, meaning the Victorian government has had to step in. The support officers will help apprentices access literacy and numeracy support, drug and alcohol counselling or mental health practitioners if needed to keep them on track and safe through their trades training. Funding for these officers is on top of the government’s record investment in TAFE in the last two budgets.
Along with this, last Wednesday I joined the Victorian skills commissioner, Neil Coulson, and apprentices and employers in Docklands to launch a new task force to drive apprenticeships and traineeships. The task force will include industry, employers, training organisations and unions and will look at barriers stopping people from taking up an apprenticeship or traineeship and at whether issues are specific to particular industries or if there are broader systemic issues. Apprentices are the backbone of our training system and the future of our workforce. Labor will always support them, and I do look forward to receiving the report of the task force.