Weld Australia lauds energy apprenticeships initiative but calls for further improvement

Image Credit: Weld Australia

Weld Australia has welcomed the federal government’s New Energy Apprenticeships program but noted that much more needs to be done to address the country’s skilled welder shortage.

In particular, the non-profit organisation is lobbying for a radical three-pronged approach to address the nation’s skilled welder shortage, which includes an overhaul of welder training, a focus on STEM education in schools, and national investment in TAFEs.

“There is no magic solution to Australia’s skills crisis. We need a radical approach. The same old approach that we’ve taken for years will not arm Australia with the skilled workers needed to deliver the record number of projects we’re seeing in industries like defence, renewables and infrastructure,” said Geoff Crittenden, CEO of Weld Australia.

The CEO stated that building and installing the infrastructure necessary to meet the Federal Government’s 43 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030 and net zero by 2050 will require a real army of qualified employees, including welders. 

“Unless action is taken now, Australia will be at least 70,000 welders short by 2030,” Crittenden added.

“The Federal Government has committed to spending over $95 million to support 10,000 new apprenticeships under the New Energy Apprenticeships program, and another $1 billion on a 12-month Skills Agreement that promises to deliver 180,000 Fee-Free TAFE places to priority groups in 2023,” the CEO explained.

However, although these programs will give companies and their apprentices much-needed financial incentives, Crittenden said it is only a small part of the equation saying that, “These initiatives alone will not solve the skills crisis.”

It also appears that there has not been many efforts put into persuading young people to enter an apprenticeship, Crittenden said, highlighting that STEM education should be prioritised.

Allocation of funding into TAFEs is also a challenge to enable the delivery of additional training, and the Weld Australia CEO urges governments to invest in TAFEs to better prepare graduates for the workplace. 

Recently, the Federal Government added an extra 39 occupations to the Australian Apprenticeships Priority List. 

The list has expanded to include 111 professions as Australia continues to face a skills need in a variety of industries, including welding and fabrication.

Numerous jobs connected to welding and fabrication were also added to the Priority List, including Welder, Pressure Welder, Fitter, Metal Fabricator, Metal Machinist, Metal Casting Trades Worker, Sheetmetal Trades Worker, and Blacksmith.

The Australian Apprenticeships Incentive Scheme offers financial assistance to occupations on the Priority List. Businesses receive a 10 per cent pay subsidy in the first and second years and a 5 per cent wage subsidy in the third year. 

Throughout the course of two years, apprentices get direct payments of up to $5,000.