WA Election 2017: Employers set for cash bonuses when taking on apprentices under Liberal pledge

PerthNow, February 19, 2017:

EMPLOYERS in every industry in WA will be paid cash bonuses to take on apprentices under a Liberal promise to create 15,000 new apprenticeships in the next two years.

Premier Colin Barnett will today announce at his party’s campaign launch that a re-elected Liberal government would spend $75 million on the apprenticeship plan, paid from consolidated revenue.

Currently only employers in the building and construction industry receive a payment for apprentices.

But Mr Barnett said, under the election promise, every employer running a small or medium-sized business in WA could apply for a $2500 payment to take on an apprentice or trainee and another $2500 payment two years later to keep them on.

Speaking to The Sunday Times ahead of what could be one of his final speeches as Premier, Mr Barnett compared his international standing and experience with WA Labor leader Mark McGowan. He also gave more of an indication of his retirement plans should the Liberals cling on to power on March 11.

“I’ve said this will be my last term in Parliament, and that I would step down before the following election which is 2021,” Mr Barnett.

“So I think that anyone who took my place, and that’s up to members of parliament, no one’s anointed, they would need a year to establish themselves as the new premier.”

Asked if this means he would stay in WA’s top job until 2020, Mr Barnett replied: “I’m not putting a month or a date on it.”

Mr Barnett said there was a sentiment in the electorate of “maybe we’ll give the other guys a go”, but urged voters to be “very careful”.

“WA is an internationally based economy and I have a career, of not just in politics, in dealing internationally, dealing with governments and major corporations throughout Asia in particular,” he said. “In my own right I think I’m highly regarded. I’ve been invited to speak in London, in Houston, Cape Town throughout my career — Mark McGowan has virtually no international experience or standing.”

Training and Workforce Development Minister Liza Harvey — favourite to succeed Mr Barnett if the Liberals win – said the new payments would apply for all new entrant apprentices and trainees under the age of 25 who are studying at Certificate II level or above.

The WA Labor Party has also promised to boost apprentices if it wins by making apprenticeships and traineeships mandatory on all government projects.

Michael Campion, who owns Sorrento restaurant Voyage Kitchen and its sister restaurant and bar Isle of Voyage at Elizabeth Quay, employs about 120 staff but just one kitchen apprentice because “without an incentive it’s really not worth doing”.

“Having an incentive would definitely change that by taking a lot of the financial risk away,” Mr Campion said.