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In a major win for the industry, print apprentices are back on the Australian Apprenticeships Priority List, following 12 months of intense lobbying by industry employers association PVCA.

Print apprentices: Major win for industry
Print apprentices: Major win for industry

Reinstatement on the list means print business owners can claim government wage subsidy support for apprentices, as well as having access across various claims to payments and other supports to assist their studies.

There are now nine courses that print apprentices can claim for, which is all of them, with reinstatement backdated to 1 January this year. The courses are; Cert III in Printing, in Print Manufacturing, in Finishing, in Print Binding and in Packaging, the Diploma in Print Graphics and Business, and the Cert IV in Print & Graphics. The two screen printing courses are also on the list.

Real Media Awards – more than an industry event: Kellie Northwood, CEO PVCA
PVCA determined to rectify issue: Kellie Northwood, CEO

Kellie Northwood, CEO at PVCA said, “It has been a difficult journey at times with various stakeholders not willing to focus on the criticality of the AAPL listing for the industry. That said, we were determined to rectify this issue and continued through every option available to us, ultimately leading to success for the members and industry. I was thrilled to see the AAPL list released over the weekend, despite the National Skills Commission still not updating their Skills Priority List documents from October.”

The good news comes following 12 months of rigorous lobbying to re-instate the apprenticeships for the print and signage industries onto the Australian Apprenticeships Priority List. In 2021, the government struck off seven, then nine, industry apprentice courses from the AAPL.

The peak industry body PVCA engaged directly with Minister Brendan O’Connor and the Department to have the industry reassessed, seeking an immediate intervention from the Minister under his discretionary powers in May. The Minister declined to intervene, and signatory stakeholders did not feel it was a priority project, which left the PVCA no option but to lobby further into the Department and engage Opposition channels where applicable.

The rationale from the Department that justified the apprenticeships being struck off was that the print and signage industry was not deemed a priority, due to low job advertisement rates compared to other sectors and a declining industry. They held that there was ‘no shortage’ and a ‘soft’ future demand for occupations in print.

The PVCA vehemently rejected the Department’s assessment formulas, and took the opportunity to collect, and submit, industry specific data. This was granted and the PVCA submission outlined the growth across packaging, labels, digital and other sectors, challenging the Department’s assessment criteria.

Experience: Charles Watson, TRMC
Data meets mandate: Charles Watson, PVCA

Further, the PVCA issued an Industry Skills Survey with data being submitted directly into the Department for consideration. “The PVCA Industry Skills Survey revealed that 76 per cent of printers in Australia had at least two job vacancies and 67.5 per cent of these jobs had been vacant for at least eleven weeks. Some 58 per cent of these roles are print machinist and finishers, two of the first occupations to be removed, all data which clearly meets the mandate under the Department’s criteria for the nine apprenticeship courses to sit on the AAPL,” commented Charles Watson, GM – IR, Policy & Governance, PVCA.

The AAPL now has 111 occupations, including nine specific to the print industry, ensuring printers and new apprenticeships are now able to apply for apprenticeship related wage subsidies, and other related incentives that may be available to priority apprenticeship related occupations.

The next commitment from the PVCA is to work with Jobs and Skills Australia, the National Skills Commission, various Industry Skills Councils, and various federal government committees and departments so as to overcome a range of industry skill and training related issues. “Given the interconnected web of ecologies that apply to vocational training in this country, and across state and federal government departments and educational bodies, there are numerous issues that we are seeking to address,” said Watson.

The PVCA holds a seat on the Board of the Manufacturing Jobs and Skills Council, overseen by the Innovation and Business Skills Australia (IBSA). IBSA is the recently appointed government administrator for manufacturing jobs and skills with specificity to the print and related sector industries. The purpose of the Council is to provide strategic leadership in addressing skills and workforce challenges for the print industry.

Watson will lead this representation and the PVCA is developing an Employer’s Committee to brief the Council on industry need. “I want to thank Charles and the team for prioritising this for our members, for not giving up even when there were some frustrating times of ‘doors closed’. The PVCA is more than offering members IR and Workplace Relations support, we are also fighting for the industry on many levels, this is the first example of many for 2023,” concluded Northwood.

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