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Major boost for optical practices with expansion of wage subsidy program

A fresh surge of optical practices are set to benefit from the Federal Government’s traineeship wage subsidy initiative after Prime Minister Scott Morrison removed a cap on the program and extended it for another 12 months.

The Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements (BAC) scheme – which involves a wage subsidy of up to $28,000 for new or existing employees enrolled into appropriate courses – reached its 100,000 capacity in less than five months.

However, Morrison announced on 9 March it would now become “demand driven” and expanded for a full year until September 30, 2022. This means that businesses that sign up eligible employees before 30 September 2021 can receive a 50% wage subsidy for a full 12-month period from the date of commencement, to a maximum of $7,000 per quarter.

Previously, the payments were only going to be paid until September 2021, which meant employers missed out on potential subsidies every day they delayed subscribing an employee. Many were also required to move quickly before the program became fully subscribed.

With the number of placements now uncapped, it is estimated the demand driven expansion will generate around 70,000 new apprentice and trainee places, with the government investing around $1.2 billion.

Optical assistants enrolled in programs like the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing are eligible. As of 14 January, a Department of Education, Skills and Employment spokesperson said there had been more than 300 placements from employers with staff commencing optical dispensing training. However, Insight understands that number is much higher.

Industry figures hope the scheme will encourage more employers to upskill their optical assistants and help address a shortage of qualified dispensers in Australia.

Morrison said training and skills were at the core of the government’s response to the economic challenges faced by the COVID-19 recession.

“With 100,000 new apprenticeship positions already snapped up, it highlights the confidence businesses have in the future of the Australian economy,” he said.

Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Ms Michaelia Cash said this will help more people into jobs.

“Growing our skills pipeline is an incredibly important part of helping our economic recovery,” she said.

“The Boosting Apprentices Commencement program has to date assisted almost 40,000 businesses to take on a new Australian apprentice or trainee. This initiative has supported the creation of more than 8,000 bricklayers, 6,000 electricians, and almost 11,000 people in retail and hospitality work.”

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