THE Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has called for urgent action to stop the decline in apprenticeships.
In a statement issued last week, the chamber expressed concern about a "dramatic drop" in people beginning apprenticeships. "The future of skills development and productivity growth in Australia hangs in the balance, waiting for policy clarity and clear commitment from all sides of politics," the statement says.
"Industry needs to know that the next Australian government is committed to maintaining an industry-led apprenticeship system."
Last week chamber representatives met employer groups, training providers and industry skills councils and committed to the apprenticeship process as a means of ensuring competitiveness, productivity and addressing rising unemployment.
The chamber blamed "a series of ad hoc changes to policy, training funding and financial incentives" at state and federal level.
This had brought apprenticeship starts to their lowest level since 1999.
"Government support for apprenticeships is narrowing such that major growth areas of the economy, including the service sector industries of retail, transport, finance and hospitality are bearing the brunt of the changes," the statement says.
"Employers are losing confidence in the apprenticeship system, because they cannot rely on consistency in the approach by both federal and state governments."
The chamber called on federal political parties to recognise the importance of apprenticeships and engage with industry after the Federal Election on September 7.