Helping hand for boatie learners
By ED SOUTHORN
THE Tweed's booming boat-building industry, with annual turnover approaching $20 million, has successfully lobbied to ease discrimination against local apprentices.
But the fight to encourage more urgently needed boat-building apprentices and tradesmen to the Tweed is not over yet.
Bob Peel, owner of Multihulls to Go, Murwillumbah, enlisted the support of Richmond MP Justine Elliot after boatbuilding apprentices were excluded from a tools subsidy, even though the subsidy was granted to 26 other mostly tool-dependent trades, including motor mechanics and cabinetmakers.
The subsidy was also granted to hairdressers, whose tool kit is far less expensive than tools for boat builders, who each require at least 20 costly tools and components, according to Mr Peel.
After asking questions in federal Parliament, Ms Elliot secured a federal government "backflip" on the Tools for Your Trade incentive scheme, introduced to combat the national skills shortage, which pays $800 per apprentice towards the cost of tools.
Ms Elliot said the government had initially determined that boat-building was not a "trade or occupation in skills need".
However, the subsidy now will be extended only to new boat-building apprentices, not existing apprentices.
For Mr Peel, that means his five current apprentices will not benefit ? in fact, they will miss out on a total of $4000.
And even though the tools subsidy is designed to help him hire new apprentices, regulations require him to have one qualified tradesman employed for each new ap- prentice he hires.