How Western Australia’s new approach to civil construction training has opened the door to new skilled workers and more funding for employers.
Western Australia’s civil construction industry is on the rise. Over the next four years, $13 billion will be poured into major civil infrastructure projects across the state. But to deliver on this huge pipeline of work, the industry needs to recruit and retain a skilled workforce.
So, what’s being done to make sure this happens? It’s called the Civil Construction Pilot Program (CCPP).
Endorsed by Western Australia’s Minister for Education and Training Sue Ellery in September 2021, the CCPP aims to increase the number and capabilities of new workers entering WA’s civil construction industry.
Previously only civil construction traineeships were offered. Now with CCPP, the door has opened to new workers with the introduction of civil construction apprenticeships. The apprenticeship model will provide a longer period of training, a formal trade certificate on completion, and a more robust career pathway into the sector.
To help make this happen, new funding has been made available through the Construction Training Fund (CTF), one of the industry organisations coordinating the pilot program. CTF is providing $5.996 million to support employers hiring these new apprentices.
With funding support, industry enthusiasm and a large pool of WA talent, the outlook for CCPP is promising.
Improving the capability of new civil construction workers
The CCPP is a four-year program developed to address the needs of WA’s civil construction industry.
Desiring more skilled and job-ready workers, the industry sought a change in training and qualification of those entering the sector. As a result, training in specific civil construction qualifications changed in September last year.
Nine existing traineeship streams have transitioned to apprenticeships, resulting in WA’s first cohort of civil construction apprentices. Once they have completed their training, the apprentices will have attained a Certificate III in either plant operations, trenchless technology or civil construction and a trade certificate.
The longer period of training and hands-on learning provided with apprenticeships will boost the number of skilled workers in the sector.
However, this higher qualification also means that training has extended from two years for a traineeship, to three years for an apprenticeship.
What are the implications of this for current trainees, new apprentices and their employers? Rob Berryman, CTF’s Director of Skills Development, explains.
“The extra training year will improve and cement the skills of the new apprentices and ensure employers have experienced, job-ready workers,” he says. “There are financial implications of this change. But CTF’s wage subsidies and grants will eliminate or reduce any wage impact to the apprentice and the employer.”
As well as providing financial support, CTF will also facilitate a mandatory induction session for new apprentices. CTF will contact all eligible employers and apprentices to arrange this.
Wage gap subsidies for civil construction employers
The award rate for a junior apprentice is lower than the award rate for a trainee, potentially deterring current trainees from transitioning to the new qualification.
But CTF’s wage gap funding will offset the difference. New apprentices, including those transitioning from a traineeship, will be paid at the higher (trainee) rate without the employer bearing the additional wage cost.
Two CTF wage gap subsidies will fund the difference between the junior apprentice award rate and the civil construction trainee award rate. These are the Junior Wage Gap Subsidy and the
Mature Age Wage Gap Subsidy
“Up to $14,000 of wage-gap subsidies per apprentice are available to employers,” says Berryman. “Also, there is no restriction on the number of civil construction apprentices an employer can take on.”
There are eligibility criteria that need to be met, including:
• For the Junior Wage Gap Subsidy, the apprentice must be under 21 years of age;
• The individual must have commenced or transitioned to an eligible apprenticeship on or after 3 September 2021;
• Have an employer paying at, or above, award rates;
• For the Mature Age Wage Gap Subsidy, the apprentice must be over 21 years of age and be accepted onto MAWG pilot.
Trainees who commenced their training contract before 3 September 2021 can continue with their traineeship if they wish and do not have to transition to the apprenticeship.
Additional grants to subsidise employment costs
The pilot program will run until October 2025. By this time, WA will likely have 1,280 new civil construction apprentices.
“It’s an exciting prospect for the sector, as it ensures a pipeline of qualified apprentices ready to deliver on road, rail and other major civil infrastructure projects across our state,” explains Berryman.
“We want employers and apprentices involved in the pilot program to reap the benefits of the training. That’s why CTF has increased the amount of grant funding to CCPP employers.”
The existing base grant offered to employers who hire an apprentice has been increased for those involved in the pilot program.
This Employer Support Grant has been upped to $10,000 (from $8,000) and aims to subsidise employer costs incurred during the term of the training contract. This funding is in addition to the wage subsidies.
While focusing on new workers in the industry, the importance of encouraging under-represented groups to consider civil construction as a career has not been lost to CTF.
CTF offers employer grants for businesses that employ trainees or apprentices that are female, mature age, regionally based, and/or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
What does this mean in real terms? As an example, if an employer employs a 26-year old female Indigenous civil construction apprentice and is based in a regional area, they could be eligible for up to $5,200 in employer grants, plus the $10,000 Employer Support Grant and the Mature Age Wage Gap Subsidy (if accepted on the program) over the life of the apprenticeship.
Payments to Group Training Organisations or employers of trainees converting to an apprenticeship may be adjusted depending on previous funding received.
Powering ahead with the pilot program
The new civil construction apprenticeships and funding model are a win-win for apprentices, their employers and the industry. By extending the duration of civil construction training, the CCPP will ensure a supply of junior and mature age qualified apprentices.
So, what happens when the pilot finishes in late 2025? Berryman is hopeful it will be a resounding success that will see civil construction apprenticeships continue in WA.
“Regardless, one thing’s for sure. WA will have 1,280 savvy and skilled new civil construction workers,” he says.
For more information about the ‘Civil Construction Pilot Program,’ including CTF’s Employer Funding Calculator, the wage gap subsidies available to employers and the eligibility criteria, visit: www.ctf.wa.gov.au.
This article was originally published in the May edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.