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< Back 29 May 2024

New government policy targets increased apprenticeship numbers on major projects

Jacob Fredericks, Director Policy and Advocacy
Jacob FredericksLinkedIn

The Australian Skills Guarantee Procurement Connected Policy comes into effect on 1 July 2024. Applying to all eligible Australian Government projects worth $10m or more, the policy will support increased apprenticeship and trainee numbers, and will also see a significant boost in women apprentices working in construction and trades.

The recently released policy aims to address significant skills shortages in the construction sector by setting targets for apprentices and trainees, women and ICT cadets across major projects. From 1 July 2024, 10% all labour hours spent on a major or flagship construction project must be undertaken by apprentices.

For a major construction project estimated to need 10,000 labour hours to complete, this means a minimum of 1,000 labour hours must be carried out by apprentices. These hours can be allocated to all work done to contribute to the project’s completion. This means off-site as well as on-site work: time spent attending training and education can be counted, as well as off-site specialist works such as manufacturing and fabrication for the project.

Boosting women’s participation in apprenticeships and trades

The policy also includes specific targets for women. This includes an overarching apprentice target and a trade-specific target, both increasing year-on-year. The overarching apprentice target set for women is 6% for FY24-25, increasing each year to 12% from FY30-31 onwards. Trade-specific targets for women start at 4% in FY24-25 increasing to 10% from 2030-31 onwards.

The policy provides more ambitious targets for women on major flagship construction projects in recognition of their increased scale, though it does not specifically prescribe them. Instead, it requires suppliers to propose targets that exceed the annual minimum targets for major projects. For instance, a supplier to a major project would need to propose a target higher than the above example of 6% for FY24-25.

Suppliers to flagship construction projects will also need to provide a Gender Equality Action Plan as part of their engagement conditions. This plan must outline their recruitment and retention strategies for ensuring their targets are met and maintained.

A boost for industry

The new policy is a step in the right direction to helping address immediate and longer-term skills shortages. By embedding these targets into the procurement evaluation process, the policy incentivises firms that adopt a more apprentice-friendly, and women-friendly, approach to resourcing and managing major projects.