By Ian Atkinson – CEO, Nursery & Garden Industry Queensland
Sometimes I wonder “Are we making a difference?” NGIQ has heavily promoted the Commonwealth’s now defunct ‘Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements’ program. Well, the results are in and we are very pleased. Queensland enrolments in Nursery trade apprenticeships have gone from 7 in 2017 to 113 in 2021. It’s not all our work of course, because there are several RTO’s delivering nursery apprenticeships, but I am very happy with the results. These people are our future Grower Managers / Supervisors.
Why do this? Long-term labour and skills shortages in the Queensland nursery industry
- Entry-level labour need has been constant for more than 10 years,
mainly due to a combination of industry growth and staff turnover.
- Low level of skills for entry-level staff, and no qualifications, are required.
- The bigger issue has been and still is, at the Supervisor / Grower Manager level positions. They are in short supply and often people have inadequate skills.
- A very long-term issue and a complicated one.
What was the opportunity? Commonwealth’s Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements (BAC)
- 50% wage subsidy for apprentices, what’s not to love about that? This included existing staff! A big win because we could provide tech training to our existing workforce.
- We heard about this very quickly through the Queensland Rural Jobs & Skills Alliance (chaired by NGIQ CEO).
How did we do this? Partnership with member RTO a big factor
- Working with TABMA Training, an RTO owned by an industry association and members of NGIQ.
- Developed package around existing Trade level qualification (name recently to Cert III Nursery Operations).
- Developed an NGIQ Bursary to help fund the employer contribution, member benefit and gave impetus to marketing.
- We also widely promoted BAC in generic sense, we needed more apprentices and there are other RTOs in Queensland offering similar packages.
- Of the 51 people initially signed up to the NGIQ/TAMBA program 26 have completed, 11 are still underway, and 14 dropped out of the program.
Unfortunately, BAC has now come to an end so I’d expect these numbers to drop off dramatically. There may be some good news out of the federal governments Jobs & Skills Summit in September.