Apprentice Wage Subsidy to Support Regional and Remote Businesses

Apprentice Wage Subsidy to Support Regional and Remote Businesses

Skillset Workforce - Australian Apprentice Wage SubsidyThe Australian Apprentice Wage Subsidy trial being launched on January 1, 2019 aims to support apprenticeships in skills need occupations in rural and regional areas. The subsidy will encourage participation in apprenticeships by employers who have not previously engaged apprentices, as well as re-engaging employers who may have disengaged from the system. Additional employer eligibility criteria will apply and local apprenticeship specialists Skillset are encouraging businesses to contact them for more information.

The Australian Apprentice Wage Subsidy is available to employers who sign-up and commence a new worker Australian Apprentice from 1 January 2019. The subsidy is capped at 1630 commencements, nationally.

The subsidy will cover up to 75 per cent of an apprentices first-year wage, reducing down to 25 per cent of the award wage by the third year of training.

Skillset Chief Executive Officer Craig Randazzo welcomes the announcement and the support it will provide to increase the number of apprentices in regional NSW. “This is a positive government initiative and will contribute towards addressing the skills gaps being felt across regional NSW. Employing an apprentice can be a rewarding and smart decision to make for your business, especially with the support and mentoring that Skillset provides with our fully managed service through Skillset Workforce.”

Mr Randazzo added that employers should be aware of eligibility requirements and seek advice from Skillset before hiring an apprentice. “There will be specific eligibility requirements and it is not guaranteed that businesses will receive the subsidy. We encourage businesses who are looking to take on an apprentice to contact Skillset Workforce. Managing apprentices can at times be complex and Skillset can assist with a number of services including recruitment, assessment, shortlisting, specialist mentoring, training support, safety assessments and general administrative assistance such as payroll and minimising workers’ insurance risks and costs.”

To find out more about recruiting an apprentice or trainee, and the Australian Apprentice Wage Subsidy, call Skillset Workforce on 1300 853 525 or email

Hampton students enhance the natural habitats of vulnerable species

Hampton students enhance the natural habitats of vulnerable species

Skillset Environment Land Works crew recently completed a revegetation project with Hy-Tec Austen Quarry in Hartley. This project aimed at protecting the threatened species Silver-leaved Mountain Gums, creating additional natural habitat, reconnecting the landscape and producing future seed collection populations.

As part of this work the Quarry Supervisor Craig McDonald, organised a visit from Hampton Public School to learn about planting and threatened local species. Land Works crew, Jack Fry, Jarred Kemester and Phill New demonstrated the innovative method that Land Works uses, including tree fungi powder, water crystals, tree tonic and fertiliser.

By participating in environmental projects and involving local schools and businesses, we are teaching the next generation about threatened species and the importance of conserving our ecosystems.
Introducing the wider community to the importance of enhancing and restoring the natural habitats of vulnerable species is imperative in ensuring that the landscapes of our local regions are sustained long into the future.

Hampton Public School students learnt that planting a little deeper and creating a small dam/basin on the lower side will catch rain water and naturally water the plants. Students helped plant 30 threatened Silver-leaved Mountain Gums and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Hampton Public School Principal, Belinda Greer says, “many thanks are extended to Skillset for educating our students on the role they play in protecting the various ecosystems. They learnt to appreciate the natural and manmade habitats, and now have a much greater perspective on how vital these are to our survival.”

Scholarship is just the beginning for Dent

Scholarship is just the beginning for Dent

Skillset have launched their inaugural Skillset Christmas Scholarship which is a $1000 prize awarded to an individual from around the Central West and Orana region, who has excelled in their area of education or employment.

Skillset CEO, Craig Randazzo says, “the Skillset Christmas Scholarship aims to encourage recipients to continue on their career development journey and spend the prize in a way which supports ongoing learning.”
Sam Dent, who recently completed the Skills4Trade Civil Construction Course at TAFE NSW Mudgee campus, was announced as the 2018 Scholarship winner. Sam has been acknowledged as a dedicated and compassionate student with a significant passion and natural talent for the trade.

“Sam’s knowledge was of high standard and he provided other students with support needed to nurture their learning and encourage growth in the subject. Sam’s natural leadership was highlighted both in and outside the classroom, working as a leader in the support of learning and the completion of group based activities”, says TAFE teacher, Michael Beohm.


Scholarship winner, Sam Dent with Skillset General Manager, Jane McWilliam and CEO, Craig Randazzo

Sam says, “the Skills4Trade course provided me with a positive learning environment which allowed me to identify my strengths and trial the industry before committing. With the New Year in sight, I’m really hoping to gain some more hands on experience and obtain a job in civil construction or mining.”

Sam added, “I am incredibly grateful to have been considered for this Scholarship. For so long, I was made to feel as though there was no chance of me succeeding, but I’ve now found my passion. This Scholarship has made me even more driven towards achieving my goals and taking advantage of the many opportunities available.”

Skillset is driving regional prosperity through SkillForce360

Skillset is driving regional prosperity through SkillForce360

Our current regional jobs growth campaign, SkillForce360 is aimed at guiding and supporting regional businesses for a strong future. With 5 key messages, Skillset has the success of businesses at heart.


1)      Build and develop your team

For businesses to remain in touch with society and maintain a competitive advantage, their team needs to be constantly growing and progressing.
Recent reports have stated the increasing demand for employees to be hired based on their soft skills rather than their level of industry knowledge, qualifications and experience.

Steve Jobs famously insisted, that an individual’s hard skills are not enough. Organisations desperately need the expertise of those who are educated to the human, cultural and social as well as the technical knowledge of their role.

Individuals who hold attributes of being a good coach, critical thinker and problem solver, in addition to having strong communication skills and empathetic views were considered greater assets to a workplace than individuals with qualifications and excessive experience.

For a workplace, it is more beneficial to hire based on your desired soft skills, and then provide necessary training and mentoring to the employee in order to build the ideal team who works cohesively together with the wide range of required technical skills and knowledge.


2)      Support skills development to address skills gaps

The commonly spoken about ‘skills gap’ is a term used to describe not the lack of job applicants, but the difference between the skills that employers want, as shown by their job advertisements, and those that are available from workers looking for a job.

In September 2018, the national average of unemployment was at 5.0%, with unemployment in our Central Western regions slightly higher at 5.4%. Meanwhile our Far West and Orana regions had a decrease of 3.0% in their unemployment rates, currently sitting at 2.9%.

Long standing Skillset host employer, Dave Cooper from DR and DV Cooper Bricklaying in Orange, considers the training of apprentices as an effective means to ending the skill shortage and assists his business in remaining fresh and enthusiastic.

“I’ve been working with Skillset for 20 years because it is evident just how much my business relies on apprentices. Skilled labour is hard to find these days, but apprentices allow you to train them in a way that creates your business’ ideal worker.”

Mr Cooper stated, “80% of my business is made up of apprentices because I honestly couldn’t function without them. I gain so much on both a personal and professional level, watching my boys enter the industry with limited knowledge and low self-esteem, then 4 years later they’re qualified, confident and competent workers who are ready to be business owners themselves. The fresh energy and enthusiasm that these young workers bring to work each day, makes waking up every morning worthwhile.”


3)      Source the best candidates for recruitment and labour hire

For a business to perform well, they need to have the right team with the right skills and personalities to suit the work environment. Sometimes this can be hard for employers to see in potential recruits when hiring.

By choosing to outsource the recruitment of staff to a trusted and proven organisation, your business will save time and money. Your business will be able to concentrate on what you do best – working in your business, while Skillset Workforce does what we do best – recruitment.

Our recruitment process includes five key stages and a dedicated after placement monitoring service and guarantee to ensure we not only find the right employee for your business, but to ensure they continue to perform well in the future years.

Dale Curran, Executive Officer of Skillset’s newest host employer, Western Research Institute (WRI) in Bathurst says,

“This has been the first time our organisation has hired a trainee, but we’ve found that it has created critical capacity in our small team, and a business trainee in particular ensures the day to day cogs of business are always turning smoothly so that we can concentrate on the bigger picture. It’s been a worthwhile investment.”


4)      Increase employment opportunities in regional NSW

Data clearly shows consistent job growth in regions and a rising workforce shortage.
Meeting the job demand for regions with workers is fundamental to the future of our regions. Regions need more permanent workers than what they are currently getting, as well as more people looking to regional Australia for job opportunities that are suitable for them.

In order to attract permanent workers, the employer needs to be able to offer long term professional development opportunities to the individual to encourage them to remain in the regional workforce. With the right support and direction, these long term strategies not only assist businesses in attracting the right permanent workers, but ensures their community is equipped for survival.


5)      Foster the prosperity of regional communities

Did you know that for each dollar you spend at independent businesses, it returns 3 times more money to your local economy than one spent at a large chain. Supporting the survival of your local community means that the community as a whole benefit from the prosperity.

By developing a skilled and developed business, you are offering your local community services that encourage them to spend locally. That not only brings money into your business, but builds a stronger economy around you.

Kathy Woolley, Chief Executive Officer of Skillset host employer, Western Research Institute (WRI) in Bathurst supports this message by stating why they signed up for SkillForce360,

“As an organisation focused on the development of regional communities, we know the importance of providing traineeships in rural and regional communities. Research completed by WRI in the past has highlighted that traineeships and apprenticeships leads to better economic outcome for the whole community and builds long term value to the local economy.”


Play your part in future proofing your business and wider community by joining the SkillForce360 campaign which will build the skills of 360 people in our region. 

Why our apprentices could be the answer to your business’ future needs

Why our apprentices could be the answer to your business’ future needs

SkillForce360 - Skillset Workforce - Jobs Campaign

Since the Skillset Workforce SkillForce360 jobs growth campaign launched a month ago, there have been over 80 new jobs placed within regional NSW…. we’re 22% of the way to our goal already!

What are the reasons behind creating 360 new jobs?
Are we trying to provide our youth with jobs? Contribute to a more skilled workforce for the future? Or are we aiming to assist our local businesses with attracting the skills they require to remain strong in the rapid changes of our current time?

Whilst we’re achieving all of the above, the greatest aim for SkillForce360 is to foster our regional communities to grow and prosper, and educate businesses on the importance of training and upskilling to address the nationwide skills shortage.

Earlier this year, the NSW Government launched the Fee-Free Apprenticeships initiative for over 120 different courses to help address the states skills shortage. Statistics show that NSW will need another 50,000 skilled construction workers in the next 12 months alone. Basically, there’s no better time to think about career choices and take on this opportunity.

With so many options available, why is it that young people are reporting to find it harder than ever before to find jobs following graduation, yet the government has announced a major skills shortage and demand for workers?


So what exactly is a skills shortage?

The ‘skills gap’ is a term used to describe not the lack of job applicants, but the difference between the skills that employers want, as shown by their job advertisements, and those that are available from workers looking for a job.


What actually defines a skilled worker?

A skilled worker is any worker who has special skill, training, knowledge and ability in their work. They may have attended a college, university or technical school, or may have gained their experience through on the job training.

When discussing a skills shortage, we refer to Australia’s lack of trained or qualified workers. Recent studies show that Australia’s rate of Year 12 completion is lower than both Europe and America, with the average school completion rate at 83%. Further, 38.2% of these school completers are not continuing in education or training.  Of the people that continue onto further education, around 1 in 5 will drop out within the first few weeks due to lack of engagement, information and stress overload or inability to see a beneficial end result.

For this reason, apprenticeships offer a many advantages for workplaces. Majority of university or college degrees are heavily focused on academic learning with very minimal practical application, whilst apprenticeships are focused on developing knowledge supported by useful, on-the-job learning which also allows apprentices to earn a wage whilst training.


So how do businesses better equip themselves to deal with the ever changing trends?

During a former discussion with business futurist and innovation expert, Craig Rispin, he emphasised the substantial changes coming in what has been named as the 4th Industrial Evolution.

“The upcoming industrial evolution won’t just change what we do, it’ll change us as humans”.

It’s essential that businesses accept the need for technology in everyday tasks and identify what areas of their business will become automated over the next 5-10 years, and further distinguish what skills they require to hold a competitive advantage for future years.

In order to address the skills gap and assist our businesses with achieving greater productivity, there are 3 key areas that help build a skilled worker. It starts with education, then it’s up to the individual to pursue their strengths, and finally their workplaces must be open to change and understand how to use it to their advantage.


  • Education plays a key role

As individuals recognise their need for skill development and practical experiences, the demand is for our education systems to shift towards a more realistic, hands-on approach to learning. Whilst VET courses already offer this advantage, it’s important that the real-world skills are taught early in high school to better prepare our young people for the realities of the workforce.

Many school leavers are starting to shift towards a preference for VET courses opposed to the traditional university degree, with the 2018 Youth Census outlining that those participants who pursued a university pathway reported lower levels of wellbeing than some other post-school pathways.

Given the way apprenticeships are structured, young people reported a greater sense of meaning and optimism, were driven by a clear goal, and motivated by the annual course completion rewards.

Additional findings showed that a staggering 90% of the highest growth jobs in the next five years only require a VET qualification.

The skills required to fill the national skills shortage aren’t those that can be learnt by reading a textbook, they’re developed through interaction in a workplace. Services such as those offered by Skillset Youth Connect, provide school leavers with mentoring and assistance to plan, set and achieve the education, training and career goals that are right for each individual, to then help them move into appropriate employability.


  • Individuals need to be proactive

It’s a matter of looking at your resume and identifying your skills and knowledge, then recognising what you think you don’t know. From here you can start listing the skills associated with the things that you don’t know and begin enhancing your skillset and filling the gap with education and experiences through short courses, work experience or mentoring.

This process of career enhancement and personal development is about challenging yourself and being courageous enough to learn something new and having the confidence in your abilities. In a rapidly changing workforce, it’s important that you have communication and problem-solving skills to figure the rest out.


  • Managers mindsets need to shift

Providing training opportunities and career development pathways are essential for a business’ talent retention strategy. Investing in your people today, is a long term investment for the long term success of your business.

There’s no doubt that Richard Branson is one of the greatest leaders of our time due to his unique outlook on managing people and desire to create a team that is driven by the same core values.  For managers to recognise the value of their employees and be genuinely interested in them are two of the great qualities for leaders to have.

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
– Richard Branson

Studies show that employees who feel supported and encouraged in their profession are more engaged and productive on a day-to-day basis and will stay in the organisation for longer. Some businesses object to training apprentices as they feel that they invest too much time and energy only to have them leave.

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”
– Richard Branson

In our current workforce, we have four generations, each of which have different learning, leading and work styles. Our generation Z workers are often frowned upon for being “lazy, self-centred and entitled, however they are an asset in today’s digital age. For businesses to thrive in today’s digital market, they need to embrace young workers and all that they have to offer rather than focussing on the way the business has always done things.

Change is coming and it’s happening fast! Businesses need to prepare their employees and ensure that they’re open to finding new solutions.

Apprenticeships are beneficial to businesses because they provide employers with a low-risk sense of ‘trialling’ the employee before they’re hired full-time. Apprenticeships are a way of the future in that they close the skills gap to an extent where the employer can train the apprentice their way and equip them with necessary skills.

If businesses think they will be looking for staff to fill any skills gaps anytime in the next 4 months, they’re encouraged to contact Skillset Workforce who will have a pool of talented young people who are keen to work and who have been supported to work out what the best fit career is for them. Services such as those offered at Skillset, take the risk out of the recruitment process.




Powering People for a Stronger Future: 1 on 1 with William Farrugia

Powering People for a Stronger Future: 1 on 1 with William Farrugia

Skillset Workforce launched SkillForce360on on October 1. SkillForce360 is a campaign aimed to engage 360 people across the region into education or employment by 31st March, 2019. The slogan of the campaign, “powered by people” focusses on building skilled individuals that contribute to the productivity and development of our region’s businesses.

The campaign was built based on studies conducted by the Australian Government that identified a nationwide skills shortage which acknowledged that the supply of workers is not sufficient to meet the demand at current rates of pay. Statistics show that NSW will need another 50,000 skilled construction workers in the next 12 months alone.

SkillForce360 will generate a higher number of employment opportunities in Regional NSW, support skills development, and develop job ready young people who are confident in the roles they are applying for.

Our target of 360 will be achieved through the number of new apprentices, trainees, permanent and labour hire recruits. Additionally, our Youth Connect participants who enrol in education or secure employment will contribute to our goal, as well as any Skills4Trade course graduates.

Skills4Trade is a fully subsidised pre-employment program for 15-40 year olds who have left school and are interested in a pathway to a trade career. The program allows participants to gain a hands on approach to learning about different industries, trade careers, and apprenticeship opportunities, whilst receiving career planning, and discovering what trade is the best fit for them.

We had a chat to Dubbo’s Multi-Trade Skills4Trade course participant, William Farrugia about his course and what he’s gaining from the experience.

Skillset: What are your hobbies?
William: I love to go fishing, camping, playing football and anything that involves the outdoors

Skillset: What’s your dream job?
William: I’ve always wanted to be a boilermaker.

Skillset: Why did you enrol into Skills4Trade?
William: I wanted to improve my opportunities in gaining an apprenticeship.
In school, I studied subjects like construction, metals, engineering and automotive, and I really enjoyed the hands on subjects. When I came across Skills4Trade, I thought it would give me more of an opportunity to enter into a boilermaker apprenticeship and receive career planning.

Skillset: What are you enjoying the most about Skills4Trade?
William: Being in the engineering workshop and being hands-on means every day is a little different. We’re currently working on a die, and I find it challenging but really enjoyable.

Skillset: Would you recommend this course to others your age?
William: Absolutely. I think this course is perfect for anyone who’s willing to get their hands dirty and try out something new before entering into an apprenticeship. It’s really important to work in an industry you love and Skills4Trade gives you the opportunity to try out a few different courses before committing to an industry you actually like.

“It’s important to work in an industry you love… Skills4Trade gives you the opportunity to find what you like”