The Morrison Government will invest a further $60 million to lower the cost of doing business for small businesses and help ensure around 3,200 young Australians in rural and regional areas have the opportunity to secure an apprenticeship by expanding the successful Australian Apprentice Wage Subsidy Trial by doubling its size. The trial wage subsidy program began earlier this year to support eligible new Australian apprentices located in regional areas facing skill shortages. The trial has enabled businesses in rural and regional areas to take on around 1,600 more apprentice plumbers, mechanics, electricians, painters and hairdressers than they would otherwise have been able to do. Within weeks of the trial commencing, applications from employers had already exceeded the available spaces. A re-elected Morrison Government would double the program’s size, allowing more regional businesses to be able to afford to take on a new apprentice, giving those young Australians the opportunity to train for a rewarding career in the regions. Under the subsidy, eligible employers are able to receive payments based on the apprentice’s relevant award wage rates. Subsidies are provided at 75 per cent of the apprentice’s award wage in the first year, followed with 50 per cent in the second year and 25 per cent in the third year. The wage subsidy complements other incentives currently available and support the engagement of eligible new full-time apprentices at the Certificate III and IV levels in occupations on the National Skills Needs List in regional and rural communities. The program is already benefiting over 450 apprentices in NSW, over 330 in Victoria, over 400 in Queensland, over 100 in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania and around 50 apprentices in the Northern Territory. Bill Shorten and Labor have opposed this support for regional communities at every opportunity. As such 3,200 Australians in rural and regional areas will miss out on an apprenticeship opportunity under Labor. Bill Shorten needs to come clean about whether he will rip up the wage subsidy and take away their jobs. Labor’s opposition to more local apprentices show that they are seriously out of touch with rural and regional Australia. Australians haven’t forgotten that Bill Shorten and Labor slashed employer incentives which led to the biggest single drop in new apprentices and trainees on record. Today’s announcement builds on the $525 million Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package that was announced in the Budget. That package will create up to 80,000 new apprenticeships in areas of skills shortages, support school-leavers and job-seekers by establishing 10 industry training hubs in areas with high youth employment and provide a comprehensive roadmap to strengthen the vocational education and training sector. The Coalition understands that learning through a vocational education is just as valuable as a university degree. Continued investments in skills will help fulfil the Morrison Government’s pledge to create 1.25 million jobs over the next five years, including 250,000 new jobs for young Australians.