Last week, the Morrison government introduced the JobTrainer skills package, which will invest $2 billion to retrain and upskill hundreds of thousands of people into sectors with job opportunities, as part of its ongoing response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The package guarantees support for apprentices across a range of sectors, including housing, by subsidising their wages to keep them employed and their training secured.
The new $1 billion JobTrainer program also provides an additional 340,700 training places to help school leavers and jobseekers access short and long courses to develop new skills in growth sectors.
Courses will be free or low-cost in areas of identified need, with the government providing $500 million, while the state and territory governments will provide matched contributions.
The package also includes an additional $1.5 billion to expand the wage incentive to help keep apprentices in work, and builds on the initial $1.3 billion package announced in March.
Eligibility has also been expanded, with the wage subsidy now available to medium-sized businesses (less than 200 employees) for apprentices employed as at 1 July 2020.
The Housing Industry Association (HIA) has welcomed the new program, saying it is “critical” in providing certainty to both employers and apprentices in the housing sector as they await an expected increase in construction activity off the back of the HomeBuilder program, announced in early June.
“While the HomeBuilder incentive has underpinned activity in the second half of 2020, there are many hurdles for businesses into the months ahead,” HIA managing director Graham Wolfe said.
“Moving early and confirming that apprentices will now be supported beyond the original September time frame to March 2021 simply makes sense.”
Mr Wolfe added: “Undertaking training may be a practical option for many people. Whether that’s reskilling or upskilling, looking at the opportunity to take on a building apprenticeship now offers a chance for workers to enter new careers and be paid while they learn.”
This latest initiative from the federal government comes amid expectations of a prolonged COVID-induced downturn in the residential property market.
But according to the latest ANZ-Property Council research, confidence in the property market outlook for the September quarter of 2020 improved from a record-low index of 55.7 (100 being neutral) in the June quarter, to 66.4.
This was driven by improvements in the outlook for residential construction, employment and forward work schedules.
ANZ senior economist Felicity Emmett attributed the improvement to the federal government’s rollout of the HomeBuilder program, with 60 per cent of respondents operating in the residential property sector expecting it to have a positive impact on their business.
However, Ms Emmett noted that the program would not be enough to be compensate for the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
“While the program looks to have had a material impact on the outlook for a majority of businesses in the housing sector, it will not be a panacea for either the residential or overall property markets,” she said.
“And with the outlook still challenging, the economy is likely to need more stimulus in coming months.”