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Apprenticeship funding ripe for picking

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Until 31 March 2022, eligible businesses can take advantage of the Australian Government’s Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements scheme, subsidising 50 per cent of wages paid to an apprentice or trainee for a 12-month period, to a maximum of $7,000 per quarter. 

Leigh Taig, Horticulture Trainer at GoTafe believes this presents a great opportunity to the horticulture industry to boost the skilled workforce and bring on promising agricultural talent via Group Training Organisations. 

“We hear from horticulture industries that it’s difficult to find trained staff for roles,” Leigh said.  

“This kind of investment in training provides a solution. Horticulture is an exciting industry with increasing innovation and technology, making a Certificate in Production Horticulture a great pathway for school-leavers. A lot of roles are becoming far more specialised, and there’s this notion that a Hort Cert III traineeship is a very general training, but it offers a good, sound foundation for working in the orchard industry.” 

The flexibility in the delivery of group training makes this course especially attractive for apprentices and employers. 

“If we have a number of trainees in a region, we can bring them together deliver regular training that way, or offer it face-to-face in the workplace,” Leigh said.  

“We can look at all aspects and offer remote learning where needed, combined with a few days of focused training.” 

Helping apprentices grow on the job

At Vernview Orchards in the Yarra Valley, grower Sue Finger has recently taken on an apprentice as part of the scheme.  

“He’s settling in really well, and we’re engaging him in our management meetings, so he understands where we’re going as a business,” Sue said.  

“We hope we’re training up someone who is engaged with the farm, understands all the practices and makes a real contribution, someone who not only gets paid for his work but gets satisfaction in knowing he’s a valuable part of the team.” 

Advertising for a trainee through a Group Training Organisation made sense, not only for the wage subsidy, but also for the value in group training for establishing a sound career in horticulture. 

“Group training is important for apprentices, so they can interact and learn with like-minded people and have a peer group they grow with throughout their career,” Sue said. 

Sue sees this as part of a much bigger issue around the future of horticulture training. 

“Currently, there are courses available, but unless the industry decides to participate in them, those providers won’t continue to offer those courses,” Sud said. “We will be stuck without decent training providers for our industry.” 

Learn more about the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy and see if you are eligible at the Department of Education, Skills and Employment website. 

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