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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 30 March 2017) . . Page.. 1335 ..

apprentices, but if there is no offer of support or no incentive for employers to take them on, the system is still broken. The track record of the federal colleagues of those opposite highlights it: $1.2 billion cut over three years from employer assistance packages to support apprentices.

What was the result? Madam Assistant Speaker, you might be wondering, “What impact did that have?” Nationally, the number fell by 110,000; 110,000 fewer people entered vocational and training places in federal Labor’s last full year in government. That represented a 22 per cent decrease in the number of training places. That is the largest single annual decline ever recorded in this country, and that is damning in itself.

From the further conversation we have had with the assistant minister’s office this morning, they wanted to reiterate the great work that the coalition has been doing to reverse this decline, get training places established or re-established and young people back into employment opportunities, into apprenticeships, and facilitating opportunities for them to take on additional VET training.

The trade support loans are one such incentive that make it a little bit easier for young people to go through vocational training. There are often a number of fees that need to be paid through the process of training. More importantly, having regard to my background, the experience of purchasing tools is often considerably expensive. The loan scheme allows $20,000 to be paid over the duration of the apprenticeship. It allows the apprentice to access discounted finance; essentially, a loan that is discounted, depending on the completion of the apprenticeship. That can go, on a graduated scale and on the completion of each year, towards purchasing things like tools, additional training and training materials. It helps them to complete their qualification. So it needs to be recognised that there is work being done at the commonwealth level to ensure that apprenticeships can be continued.

As I indicated, we will let the minister do her job. We will support this motion today and encourage her to write to the federal government and seek some clarification of where the funding is at. I am confident that we will see funding levels under the new agreement in due course, as we always do. The wheels of government do move slowly, and I think all of us in this place are familiar with that. Sometimes it suits our agenda; sometimes it does not. It is clear today that this does not suit the minister’s agenda.

As the shadow minister for education and training, I look forward to continuing to work with employers, and with apprentices and trainees across the territory as they gain the valuable skills that they require to enter the workforce and make a meaningful contribution to the city’s growth and development into the future and, most importantly, get some gratification from the skills that they are learning.

MR STEEL (Murrumbidgee) (12.02): I want to respond to some of the comments that Mr Wall has made today. The national partnership agreement on skills reform is not the only national partnership agreement that is in question. Over the past year or so a very important national partnership agreement on TAFE fee waivers for early childhood qualifications has lapsed. So it is not right to simply say that this is analogous to SHOUT.

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