Blacksmith, tree worker, tour guide: The trades the government will pay you to study in 2023

Want to become a beauty therapist, picture framer, blacksmith or horse trainer? 

The federal government has updated its Australian Apprenticeships Priority List, adding an extra 39 occupations.

The list has now grown to 111 occupations, as the country continues to struggle with skills shortages across a range of different sectors.

Skills Minister Brendan O’Connor said the list advises government on where support is needed the most.

“It’s a way of identifying the priority areas so that when we invest in education and training, we’re investing in areas that will contribute to the supply that’s in demand,” he said.

“We’ve got a skills shortage across the economy, across the labour market … and therefore the task of responding to that is significant.

“Many would argue that it’s a skills deficit crisis, and it’s one that the government is focused on.”

Occupations on the list are eligible for financial support through the Australian Apprenticeships Incentive System.

A wage subsidy of 10 per cent is provided to businesses in the first and second year, and then it drops to 5 per cent in the third year.

Up to $5,000 in direct payments is handed to the apprentice across two years.

Financial support just part of the solution

Some of the jobs added to the priority list include building inspectors, dental technicians, tour guides, youth workers, tree workers and wool classers.

Veterinary nurses have also been added, which has been welcomed by Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia president Rebecca Coventry.

“If we don’t get the uptake of veterinary nurses coming in and workplaces willing to take on trainees, I think that we’re going to see longer waiting times,” she said.

A smiling blonde woman in a blue work shirt poses in front of a grey background.
Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia president Rebecca Coventry.(Supplied: VNCA)

Federal government financial support will be a drawcard for some businesses and trainees, she added.

“It will give the students opportunity to be paid as they learn,” she said.

“It will [also] give employers reassurance that their staff are being trained appropriately. They’ll have more flexibility in how they want their staff to be trained as well.”

Swimming coaches and instructors have also been added to the list.

Royal Life Saving Society Australia CEO Justin Scarr said it was “absolutely great news” that the sector had been identified as needing support to fill staff shortages.

“Based on job ads, almost every one in two pools at the moment is advertising for swim teachers,” he said.

“So we estimate that there’s a shortfall of about 2,500 to 3,000 swimming teachers today.”

A smiling blonde man in a business shirt leans against a pole in front of a body of water with his arms crossed.
Royal Life Saving Society Australia CEO Justin Scarr.(Supplied: Surfing Medicine International)

Mr Scarr agreed that financial support would be beneficial.

“One of the things that a wage subsidy does is it actually converts more of the employees in our industry from part-time casual workers to much closer to the full-time spectrum,” he said.

“This form of wage subsidy will actually help tie them into the aquatic facility … and give them more meaningful roles and opportunities.”

Successive governments have provided financial support for apprentices, albeit in different forms, however, there are ongoing questions about whether it’s the best use of taxpayer money.

Completion rates for apprenticeships across all sectors have been low for some time.

More than 57,000 Australians completed an apprentice course in 2012, but nine years later, that number had dropped by more than 20,000.

Brendan O’Connor concedes more must be done to boost the rate.

“It’s not just about income support or support for employers,” he said.

“We do need to find a way to encourage young people, and people changing their occupations, to withstand relatively low wages for a short period in order to have more secure work and higher wages over your working life.

“So we’re reviewing the whole approach to apprenticeships.”

Horse trainer, picture framer (but no candlestick maker)

The 39 occupations added this year are based on data collected from Jobs and Skills Australia and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Some of the more peculiar jobs that have made the list include horse trainer, blacksmith and picture framer.

It includes courses that specialise in becoming a racehorse trainer or track rider, as well as training in equine management, horse care and performance horse management.

A horse and rider are silhouetted against the early morning sun as they run alongside a track barrier.
Track riders must be willing to work early mornings.(USA TODAY Sports via Reuters: Brad Penner)

Mr O’Connor said it was important the government supported jobs across different sectors.

“No-one questions us wanting to invest in places for hospitality, or the arts,” he said.

“I’d like to see an allocation of [jobs] across the economy … and it will mean growing employment and growing industries.”