POLL: Thousands of Hunter apprentices to be affected by cuts

MORE than 2500 Hunter apprentices are expected to be affected by a state government decision to scrap the Joint Group Training Scheme under its education cuts.

The decision to axe the scheme was among those announced on Tuesday as part of $1.7 billion in state government education cuts.

The scheme provides an incentive of about $150 per head to training groups to administer and manage apprentices and will end next year. 

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The state government said it was an even-handed approach to funding cuts and they needed to make up for a $2.5 billion drop in annual revenue.

The decision has outraged Hunter group training organisations, which said it would lead to higher apprentice fees for small businesses and reduce apprentice uptake in skills shortage areas.

Group trainers are typically not-for-profit and take on apprentices to rotate them through small businesses that otherwise would not be able to commit to taking on an apprentice for four years.

At least six Hunter group training companies are affected.

Hunter Valley Training Company, which looks after 1200 apprentices, said the decision represented a half a million dollar funding cut.

Acting chief executive Kay Sharp said employers could face higher fees.

‘‘I think it’s  really short-sighted,’’ Ms Sharp said.

‘‘We’re actually doing something about employing kids.’’

HunterNet chief executive John Coyle said it was bad news for the skills shortage.

They look after 160 engineering and manufacturing apprentices.

‘‘It’s small to medium enterprises which will be hurt the most,’’ he said.

Group Training Australia chief executive Jim Barron condemned the decision.

‘‘The scheme [is] a key element in helping employers to take on apprentices and trainees,’’ he said.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said joint state-federal government subsidies to registered training organisations, such as TAFE, were not impacted. 

Some group trainers have training arms and would receive such funds.

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