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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 9904

Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (10:46): Those opposite never fail when it comes to post-election amnesia. Here they are up in arms about Youth Connections Program, yet while they were in government Labor did not provide any further funding or budget allocation for the program to continue beyond this year. That is right: Labor is responsible for the defunding of this program. Close to my electorate of Ryan, BoysTown has announced that they are looking at filling the gap left by Youth Connections. They are looking at privately funding a program with similar goals to Youth Connections. This is just one private organisation looking to fill the gap. Just because the government does not fund a program, it does not mean that it cannot happen. I would like to commend BoysTown for its initiative. Despite Youth Connections, I would also like to point out that youth unemployment continued to rise under Labor. The coalition government is delivering on our commitment to introduce Trade Support Loans for apprentices to encourage more young people to take up a trade and complete their qualification. From 1 July 2014, the government will offer loans of up to $20,000 over the life of an apprenticeship. These loans will ease the financial burden and help increase apprenticeship completion rates. Like HELP, formerly referred to as HECS, the loans will be repayable only once apprentices are earning a sustainable income.

We are also giving young Australians a greater chance to go on to further education, whether it be through a trade, a sub-bachelor degree or a bachelor degree. As part of the coalitions government's largest education reforms in 30 years, the Commonwealth will provide funding for higher education diplomas, advanced diplomas and associate degrees, providing pathways to careers or further study. These initiatives are all about ensuring that young people are given the opportunity to become educated and broaden their career prospects. For those young people currently in between jobs, the new work-for-the-dole arrangements will help more young job seekers to improve their chances of getting a job while giving something back to the community that supports them. This will also keep them active so that when they do get back into the workforce they remain in the mind frame to cope with normal work hours and mental demand.

The coalition government understands that a highly skilled workforce is crucial to Australia's productivity and global competitiveness. Apprenticeship completion rates of around 50 per cent are not good enough, and the new support services announced by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Industry will provide more support to apprentices and employers throughout their years of training. New arrangements will shift the focus from administration to integrated client-centred support, including job matching of potential apprentices and employers; the provision of advice about different training options; personalised mentoring for apprentices identified as needing extra support; guidance to businesses about taking on an apprentice; managing the administration of an apprenticeship, including the training contract; and administering apprenticeship payments and employer incentives.

The coalition believes that the most important difference from Labor's apprenticeship model is that, for both businesses and potential apprentices, the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network will be a one-stop shop, so someone can still go find a chippie and say, 'Are you looking for an apprentice?' but now they can also go to the $200 million a year Australian Apprenticeship Support Network. That network will say: 'I know of a carpenter who's looking for an apprentice. I'll match you up. I will sign you up. I'll make sure that they look after you, and I will manage you and manage any problems that you have during the process.' It is a one-stop shop. The outcome of this is that the person is more likely to complete their training and stay in a job over the long term.

Up until now, apprenticeship centres have not been able to go out and place people in jobs. This will change. The government will actually pay them not only for placing people in apprenticeships but also for keeping them in training so that the apprentice has someone there helping them, mentoring them, looking after all their paperwork, giving them information about a trade support loan, doing all the things that young people need to make sure they finish their apprenticeship.

It is clear that only the coalition has a cross-industry, national approach to reducing youth unemployment, to securing Australia's global competitiveness and to helping create a strong economy.