Push to fill skills gap with adult apprentices and disabled workers

Hospitality business will be incentivized to take on adult apprentices through a government plan to help address the sector’s skills crisis.

Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO Carol Giuseppi has welcomed the federal government move to extend the Adult Australian Apprenticeships payment to cover hospitality workers aged 21 to 24.

Ms Giuseppi said the association had advocated strongly to attract more adult apprentices into the hospitality sector.

“With the growth in new hotel development, the industry is crying out for more skilled workers across a range of areas particularly cooks and chefs,” she said.

“There’s no doubt older apprentices generally have greater skills and experience in the labour market – and are more likely to be undertaking training at a higher level than their younger counterparts.

“However, there has been a decline in employment of adult apprentices as a result of Fair Work’s decision on differential wage payments for apprentices.

“Industry has been active in reinforcing the need for the federal government to remove disincentives to employ adult apprentices – and today’s announcement goes some way towards doing that, and addressing some of the skilled labour issues in the tourism and accommodation sector.”

From July 2019, the support payment will be extended to employers who take on an eligible apprentice aged 21-24 studying a certificate III or IV qualification in areas of skills needs.

Assistant minister for disability services, Sarah Henderson, is meanwhile pushing the benefits of employing staff with disabilities, highlighting the pool of funding and resources available through the federal JobAccess scheme.

She said most employers recognised the value that people with disability bring to the workforce, but many were unsure about the practicalities involved in the disability employment process.

“77 percent of businesses in food service, retail and accommodation industries believe it is important for their workplace to reflect the diversity in the community by including people with disability,” she said.

“When considering the things that mattered to them, 65 percent said equal work opportunities for people with disabilities was an issue that was personally important them.

“But the research tells us these businesses want more help to transition from ‘willing’ to ‘hiring.’”

Ms Henderson said a range of supports are available to open employers via the JobAccess website support them through the process.

“Through JobAccess, employers can access practical advice and resources on all aspects of disability employment – from recruitment assistance, staff training and financial support, to workplace modifications, and tips for creating flexible work environments.

“Leading disability employers are already utilising these services and reaping the benefits, but we’re urging more employers to get on board.”

Kathy Scott, communications manager at Compass Group Australia, said considering a person with a disability often leads employers to find the best person for the job.

“As an organisation with more than 10,000 employees, we obviously have a lot of employees who are living with disability, but recently, we’ve been working more closely with disability employment services agencies through JobAccess to actively seek out people with disabilities,” Ms Scott said.

“In the past year, we’ve employed 77 people that identify as having disability, and over that time we’ve had a 94 per cent retention rate, which is a real sign of the success.”

She said building a workforce that genuinely reflects and represents their customers and communities had multiple benefits.

“Everyone is individual and unique and they bring their own capabilities and skills to the role. And it’s not just the individual that benefits from disability employment, often it’s the whole family.”

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