A new Federal Government program is expected to have “another profound effect” on optical dispensing training numbers in Australia – and is the first time in recent memory both the employer and employee receive a financial incentive for course enrolments.
The Australasian College of Optical Dispensing (ACOD) announced the “unexpected” news in early 2023, with employers able to access as much as $12,000 in wage subsidies over a two-year period – in addition to a one-off hiring incentive – while employees can receive thousands in training support payments for items such as laptops.
People who enrol into the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing can access the incentives after the course was added to the Australian Apprenticeships Priority List Appendix A. The program acts as a replacement to the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements (BAC) that was launched in a post-COVID recovery Federal Budget and led to a surge in optical dispensing training enrolments in 2021/22.
While the BAC closed to new enrolments on June 30, 2022, the Australian Apprenticeships Priority List Appendix A was launched on July 1, but was only available to selected accredited courses, excluding optical dispensing.
However, ACOD director and senior trainer Mr James Gibbins said the list was revised in December 2022 with the Cert IV in Optical Dispensing now included, effective from Jan 1, 2023.
He understood that a small number of courses were removed due to low take up rates, and “an even smaller number of very fortunate courses” were added due to a high take up rate in the BAC.
The new incentives and benefits include:
- Both new entrant and existing worker trainees are eligible
- For employers – includes a 10% wage subsidy for two years, capped at $1,500 per quarter (up to $6,000 per year for two years, capped at $12,000)
- For employees – includes a training support payment capped at $5,000 for full time and $2,500 for part time, paid in four equal instalments of $625 over two years.
“Like the BAC, these payments are linked to enrolment and are not dependant on completion. If a student leaves the course for any reason, no refund of payments made to either employer or employee up till the point of leaving the course is required,” ACOD stated.
In addition, there have been amendments to the New Entrant hiring incentives, available to employers:
- Full time – two equal payments of $1,750 each are made at the six and 12 month mark ($3,500 in total)
- Part time – two equal payments of $875 each are made at the six and 12 month mark ($1,750 in total)
According to ACOD, unlike the previous new entrant hiring incentives, these payments are not dependant on course completion, only on enrolment.
While not as generous as the BAC program – which involved an annual wage subsidy of up to $28,000 for new or existing employees – Gibbins believed the latest new program would have another profound effect on enrolments throughout the optical industry.
“In particular, we have received widespread feedback from employers in recent years concerning employees reluctant to sign up to the course, sometimes because they are concerned about the incidental costs they will incur during their course – possibly like requiring a new computer,” he said.
“We believe the employee incentive will be extremely attractive to many optical assistants and will make the difference for many in choosing to enrol.