The Rees Labor Government’s decision to axe Department of Education and Training (DET) apprenticeship support positions would cost people jobs on the Mid North Coast and North Coast, Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for State and Regional Development Andrew Stoner said today.

Mr Stoner said documents leaked to the NSW Opposition showed that from the end of the first school term, DET positions and services that get students into apprenticeships and traineeships on the North Coast will end.

The documents state that this is because State Government funds ‘are no longer available’. These positions and services will be replaced by just one regional apprenticeship officer for the entire North Coast.

In Question Time today, Mr Stoner asked the Premier how he can claim to be protecting NSW jobs and creating more apprenticeships when his Government is abolishing critical workers who put school leavers into jobs and apprenticeships, due to Government funding cuts.

The Premier seemed unaware of the decision and asked for a copy of the documents.

Mr Stoner said that the creation of jobs should be the State Government’s primary focus.

“Creation of jobs and apprenticeships should be a focus of all governments at this time, as we head into an economic downturn,” Mr Stoner said.

“At a State level, we’d like to see more action to get our kids get into jobs and training.

“Unfortunately these leaked documents reveal that due to cutbacks, funds ‘are no longer available’.

“This decision will inevitably impact on job-seekers from public and non-government schools. Unemployment in regional areas is often higher than in the cities, and we need more than just one regional apprenticeship officer helping to create jobs for the entire North Coast.

“The documents even reveal this one worker will be overstretched.

“The priority of the State Government needs to be jobs, jobs, jobs. The Premier should overturn this decision for the good of job creation.”

Mr Stoner said that after six months of Nathan Rees as Premier, five months after a Federal Government stimulus package, four months after the mini-budget and two weeks after a jobs summit, NSW still did not have a stimulus package.

“We have lost 200 jobs every day since Nathan Rees became Premier. The NSW Government should be encouraging apprenticeships and job seekers – not cutting services,” Mr Stoner said.

The North Coast Region of the Department of Education and Training refuted the claims.

A spokesman said: “Despite media coverage to the contrary, the additional support for North Coast students wanting to undertake School Based Apprenticeships and Traineeships will continue this year.

“Over the past five years the provision of School Based Apprenticeship and Traineeship (SBAT) Co-ordination Officers in the region has benefited from supplementary funds held by the region.

“These funds are now expended but following consultation with the principals, the region has decided to continue to supplement funding for three Co-ordination Officer positions for the 2009 school year.

“The officers will continue their core business of liaising with employers and training providers in establishing SBATs, each working 28 hours a week on these duties so they can be accessible throughout normal school working hours.

“Students, schools, training providers and employers across the region will have equal access to the three officers in the northern, central and southern areas, based in Lismore, Grafton and Forster.

“Some additional tasks previously performed by the co-ordination officers for other agencies, for example TAFE and industry training groups, will be done by staff at those agencies.
In the course of the year increasing reliance will be put on providing support through the Independent Industry Support Service, the responsible agency currently used by all other regions of the State.”