Skills cuts to hit businesses and employees
Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) is very disappointed by the deep reductions to apprenticeship incentives announced by the Federal Government today as part of the 2012-13 Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.
Given the difficult conditions that small and medium businesses in particular face, the conclusion that many employers will reach today is that the Federal Government is intent on pursuing an economic and policy agenda that has little or no regard for the requirements of the business community, or its economic contribution.
The Federal Government will halve the incentives paid for new and existing Certificate III trainees working on a part-time or casual basis who are not part of the National Skills List occupations – that is, mostly non-trades areas such as retail and hospitality.
It will also remove incentives for diploma apprenticeships, as well as the adult apprentice subsidy.
Apprenticeship and traineeship numbers in Queensland are already struggling, and positive action such as incentives has been an important means of encouraging employers to take on apprentices and trainees in a softening labour market.
The fact that the cuts target non-resources industries that are most exposed to the pressures of the patchwork economy demonstrates the misguided nature of the Federal Government’s economic strategy.
CCIQ is also concerned that employers who are already suffering under the weight of the Fair Work Act and the high wages and employment costs that it entails are now being hit by cuts to incentives – a dangerous combination for our labour market that leaves employers without the financial or operational ability to offer training opportunities within employment.
It is likely that this will negatively impact in Queensland, where skills shortages are endemic to certain regions.
The reduction of incentives will also particularly affect young people and other groups that are often at a disadvantage in the labour market and rely on employers being able to ‘give them a go’.
CCIQ further notes that these cuts are being announced as the Federal Government continues to pursue extremely expensive health and social policies that our country clearly cannot afford, as evidenced by today’s ‘mini-Budget’, and introduce new taxes that impose additional burdens on business.
CCIQ will be seeking feedback how Queensland businesses are likely to be affected by these changes, as well as continue to liaise closely with Queensland businesses about their needs in the lead up to next year’s federal election.