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Scramble to sign up to optical dispensing wage subsidy

One of Australia’s largest optical dispensing training providers has had more than 60 enrolments within six days from employers keen to capitalise on a new 50% wage subsidy, with one practice set to receive almost $200,000 towards seven staff salaries alone.

Mr James Gibbins, director and senior trainer at the Australasian College of Optical Dispensing (ACOD), believes the Federal Government’s $1.2 billion boost for employers to take on new apprentices and trainees is one of the largest schemes to benefit the optical sector in recent memory.

“We’re going to go from a shortage of optical dispensers to a significant increase in supply over the next few years,” he said.

Revealing more details about the program, Gibbins said the 50% subsidy is only available for one year until September 30, 2021, to a maximum of $28,000. It is designed to upskill around 100,000 people across multiple sectors.

He said practices considering enrolling optical assistants for the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing should move urgently so the payments can be backdated. The scheme will also be capped, so he expected positions to fill fast with industries like construction, hospitality and nursing enrolling people in droves.

“The traineeship start date is backdated to the date the employee registers on the college (ACOD) website. This wages subsidy program is open now, so if an employer delays for a week, then they lose a week’s worth of wages,” he said.

Practices that register optical assistants with an accredited program could receive up to $28,000 in subsidised wages.

“The first urgent step – in order to have the start date registered and ensure they are locked in before this program is over-subscribed by the other huge traineeship and apprenticeship industries – is for every employee that employers want to claim the subsidy for, to register on the ACOD website as soon as possible.

“There is no cancellation fee if they or the employee withdraws later. Nothing is lost if the student withdraws, but if they delay registering they might miss the funding.”

Gibbins said the college had received more than 60 enrolments since the program was announced in the Federal Budget last week on Tuesday 6 October. One practice registered seven optical assistants and could receive up to $196,000 in subsidised wages for the next year.

“This is the first time that something like this is available to existing staff who are either part of full time. The wages support is also non-taxable,” he said, adding the college is well-equipped for the student influx with 12 teachers.

Eligibility criteria

Gibbins said any employee in an optical retail outlet, regardless of age or length of employment, can be eligible for the optical dispensing traineeship subsidy. The main criteria are:

  • Employed part time (minimum between 13 and 21 hours per week, dependent on state requirements); or full time (minimum 38 hours per week). Causal employees are not included, but can become part or full time to be eligible.
  • Australian citizen or permanent resident.
  • Enrolled with an accredited Training College.

Gibbins said depending on whether the employee is part or full time and length of employment, there may be additional financial benefits, including:

  • If part time and employed for less than one year – $1,500 training support when the employee is course complete.
  • If full time and employed for less than three months – $1,500 on commencement and $,2500 on completion ($4,000 in total training support).
  • Other traineeship benefits, such as financial assistance for transport and accommodation associated with attendance at the workshops.

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