AS a part of the Federal Budget announcements last October, apprenticeships and traineeships were given a boost with funding available to employers of up to 50 per cent of the wage paid for 12 months (capped at $28,000, being $7000 per apprentice or trainee per quarter).
As part of the initial announcement, the program was capped to the first 100,000 places, and the trainee had to be signed up between October 5, 2020, and September 30, 2021.
As part of the federal budget announcement in March this year, the timeframe for the program has been extended to trainees or apprentices taken on before March 2022.
The cap of 100,000 places has also been removed.
How can a farm go about taking on a trainee?
Like any employment situation on farm, there are a range of things to consider and plenty of paperwork that needs to be put in place.
The first step is of course finding a suitable person.
The help of a recruitment agency can be sought, or the position can be privately advertised.
However, a lot of successful traineeships come about through word of mouth, or by offering the formal training path to existing employees.
Once the right trainee has been found, contact should be made with Apprenticeship Support Australia.
The Warrnambool Office can be contacted on (03) 5562 7886, and they will arrange for a representative to see you and your trainee on farm to sign up the training contract.
You will need to let Apprenticeship Support Australia know who your employee’s chosen training provider is.
In Western Victoria, two of the major players are South West TAFE and Rural Industries Skill Training (RIST), but there are also other options available.
Both offer similar courses, but with different modes of study and available units.
The employee will be enrolled in a Certificate 1, 2, 3 or 4 in Agriculture, depending on their existing education and experience.
The wage subsidy is only available for those enrolled in Certificate 2 and above.
Perhaps one of the more difficult tasks in this process is actually working out what wage the trainee should be paid!
There are several options when it comes to employing a trainee; they may be employed casually, part time or full time, and complete their training in their own time.
Or more commonly, their training will be completed as part of their regular employment hours.
In which case, the correct wage can be determined using the Fair Work online calculator, found here; calculate.fairwork.gov.au/FindYourAward.
This calculator takes into consideration the trainees age, highest level of education and years out of school.
The wage calculated in around 20 per cent lower than the equivalent wage of a regular employee, to factor in time spent training off farm.
The minimum amount calculated is just that, a minimum.
In most cases the award rate for trainees is quite low, and employers should consider what the ‘market rate’ for their employee’s time might be; it could in fact be quite a lot more.
There is no reason an employee cannot be paid over and above the minimum, particularly as their skills improve and their contribution to the business increases.
The other benefit that comes from having a trainee employed under a formal training contract, is that WorkCover discounts are available.
In most circumstances a trainee’s wage does not have to be included in the amount your WorkCover premium is calculated on, but the trainee is still covered.
Other than having a formal training contract and a minimum wage calculated from the National Training Wage Schedule, employing a trainee is much the same as employing any other employee on farm.
The Pastoral Award previsions still apply in relation to penalty rates, public holidays and leave loading.
The training contract you have will not be an employment contract as such, you should also have one of those in place setting out the full terms of employment.
More information on applying for the wage subsidy can be found here; dese.gov.au/boosting-apprenticeship-commencements.