The Nationals in Government will invest $60 million in a wage subsidy trial to help rural and regional communities engage more apprentices.

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals’ Leader Michael McCormack said the incentive would provide a much-needed boost to communities throughout regional and rural Australia.

“I’m confident this will encourage businesses and employers to engage a new apprentice and turbo-charge someone’s future career,” Mr McCormack said. “I often say that country communities are naturally communities of small business, so this investment from the Nationals in Government is just another practical step to help create jobs and opportunities for small businesses and young people in the regions.

“A vocational education and training (VET) qualification is every bit as important to the economy as a university degree.

“That’s why our investment in the Skilling Australians Fund – alongside State Governments like NSW – is vital to create thousands of additional pre-apprenticeships, apprenticeships and higher apprenticeships.”

The new wage subsidy will complement other incentives currently available through the Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program (AAIP) and support the engagement of eligible new full-time apprentices at the Certificate III and IV levels in occupations on the National Skills Needs List in regional and rural communities.

Skills Minister Michaelia Cash said the trial would see up to 1630 new Australian Apprentices in areas of skills needs.

“The investment is part of our commitment to maintaining a strong VET sector with a focus on supporting business needs and a quality skilled workforce,” Senator Cash said. “There are 3.3 million Australian small businesses which contribute around $395 billion annually to our economy. Small business plays a vital role in our community, from giving young Australians their first real job to supporting our local charities and sporting organisations. Through this incentive we are securing the skills our regional and rural businesses need to remain competitive and give local students new opportunities at home.”

From January 1 2019, the new subsidy under the AAIP, will support eligible new Australian Apprentices in areas such as plumbing, mechanical, electrical, painting trades and hairdressing.

Minister Cash said under the subsidy, eligible employers will be able to receive payments based on the apprentice’s relevant award wage rates.

“Subsidies will be provided at 75 per cent of the apprentice’s award wage in the first year, followed with 50 per cent in the second year and 25 per cent in the third year,” she said.