Budget 2022-2023: Printers praise apprentice support so long as you can find one and access training

The pre-election 2022-23 federal budget has been given a lukewarm reception by some Australian printers with the apprentice support provisions the most praised aspect so long as you can firstly find an apprentice and then have them trained.

Many of the printers Sprinter talked to acknowledged this was pre-election budget aimed at reducing the cost of living pressures on families with the temporary fuel excise halving, with some mentioning the substantial business support provided during the pandemic should also not be forgotten.

The popular and well-used Instant Asset Write Off and Loss-Carry Back initiatives that were launched during COVID have not been extended and will end as at June 30, 2023, with one printer, Rodney Frost at Lamson Group, urging printers to get themselves to PacPrint this year and get your orders in before the Instant Asset Write Off scheme ends.

Shoring the workforce for the print industry into the future continues to be a challenge and whilst the $5000 payment to apprentices and $15,000 in wage support for employers is welcomed, the issue of finding apprentices remains a concern.

The incentives to encourage SMBs to go digital were also useful, so long as the right digitisation options were taken for printers.

Here’s a little more about what the printers had to say:

Rodney Frost, CEO, Lamson Group

According to Frost, businesses are getting some help through the Budget, in addition to the support already received in the last two years through JobKeeper. Frost said the government has done all it can to support businesses and it’s time for companies stand on their own two feet and adjust to the ‘new normal’.

Rodney Frost, CEO, Lamson Paragon Group

“Let’s not have short memories. JobKeeper got every business that I can think of through COVID. The government has spent a lot of money in the last couple of years protecting jobs. That was the big help we received. What we’re getting now is some added support,” Frost told Sprinter.

“As we slowly get back to a more normal way of operation, we can’t expect the government to keep throwing more money around.”

Frost also identified some of the key incentives that the industry can benefit from.

“The incentives for moving towards digital provides savings for a business of five or six per cent because they don’t have to pay tax on the extra 20 per cent,” he said.

“I thought the incentives around apprenticeships is very good, although it’s pretty hard to find an apprentice with challenges around labour or an apprentice programme through TAFE.

“There were no comments around the extension of the instant asset write-off, which was a good scheme that really helped businesses. This means that everybody needs to be booking in for PacPrint and spending their money there before it expires.

“Some of the individual incentives will also help with the cost of living pressures. And the fuel excise relief is also great. Overall, it was a good budget for the election year but there’s nothing in there that businesses would ‘wow’ over.”

Atish Shah, managing director, Quality Press

Shah said some of the initiatives introduced would help businesses but more guidance from the government is necessary.

Atish Shah, Quality Press managing director

“There’s a bit of help here and there but to me, it sounded more like an election budget where they were spending to win the election. I know the initiatives, such as the new apprenticeships incentive system, will help build skills within print but the only problem is finding people, as there’s still a lack of labour at the moment,” he said.

“Migration numbers are still capped at 160,000 so it’s a bit disappointing that the government hasn’t offered any guidance as to how they intend to improve immigration into the country. We’ve been struggling with finding people for the last couple of years because over here in the west, the mining industry is really taking people away from the cities and we just can’t afford to match what they pay them. This makes it hard.

“In saying that, now that the borders are open, hopefully more skilled people will start coming through and that would ease the pressure.”

Shah also addressed the need for more structure and regulation for businesses like printing on some of the initiatives such as cyber security.

“They talk about initiatives for SMBs around cyber security but the problem is that we’re selling print and cyber security is such a wide area that it’s not really understood by the lay people like us,” he said.

“So we could easily be side-tracked into getting added things that we don’t really need. I feel that we need more rules and regulation around what businesses should do to protect themselves from cyber-attacks, like what’s available in Europe.”

As Quality Press is based on the West Coast, Shah also mentioned that some of the initiatives like the relief for flood affected businesses on the East Coast would help businesses to get back on their feet.  

“The East Coast has been impacted by floods and had more lockdowns last year as compared to the West Coast so their business activity has been up and down a bit more than the west, which has been operating in a bubble. So, the funds will help take the pressure off for the affected businesses,” he said.

Vik Gulati, director, Westman Printing

Gulati welcomed the apprentice subsidy payments and one-off payments for apprentices but he highlighted his concerns about access to training for print apprentices. He also called on the industry to band together to help attract new talent into the industry.

Vik Gulati, director, Westman Printing

“When you are talking about traditional offset printing, you cannot train an apprentice to be an offset printer. We would love to take an apprentice on. The last apprentice we had was 15 years back and now it is time again as the workforce is getting mature and we are wanting some new blood to come in,” Gulati told Sprinter.

“But at the moment the problem is you can’t find younger people who want to take it up as there is no TAFE qualification and there is no push for that TAFE qualification so the problem we are finding more and more is that in like the next 10 years we will not have many offset printers left in the industry because the young ones aren’t being trained.

“So if the government is setting up some sort of fund to help with appentices then the industry needs to get back together and have some sort of programme back in place for the training to attract young people, that would be really awesome.”

In relation to the 20 per cent tax deduction to upskill your current staff, Gulati saw this as a bit of a furphy.

“That is just a political statement. All business expenses are tax deductible. If I send an employee for any training, 100% of that is tax deductible. I think it is an election year so there is a bit of propaganda here as that is normal anyway,” he said.

Emmanuel Buhagiar, owner, Imagination Graphics

Buhagiar said any kind of support by the government is welcome, adding that the relief for flood-affected businesses and new apprenticeship incentive system, particularly are very welcome.

Imagination Graphics director Emmanuel Buhagiar

“A lot of printers are now looking for apprentices as there’s a skills shortage. So, the government grant and support for this is great initiative for our workforce,” he said.

“Here at Imagination Graphics, we’re seriously looking at getting a second apprentice as our first comes out of his time in the next couple of months. I’m seriously looking at putting somebody on again.

“The incentive does build the skills up for print. Once we train our apprentices, there will be more people in print that have learned through other printers. It’s not just one thing you learn in printing, it’s a whole variety and these skills are all required on site.

“The relief for flood-affected businesses is also welcome. There are a lot of printers in NSW and Queensland affected by the floods and they need all the help that can get – especially the ones that are uninsured.

“I know a lot of printers don’t insure everything because they don’t want to pay the big premium prices or because they can’t afford it. And then when something bad happens to them, they’re severely impacted. They’re the kinds of businesses that need most help.”

Tim Michaelides, director, Complete Colour

Michaelides said there was not a great deal in the budget that he felt would directly effect his business. He supports the apprenticeship support and added it was important to remember that apprentices don’t always have to be printing related but can also be for administration staff.

Tim Michaelides, managing director, Complete Colour

In terms of a wishlist, he said the key addition he would like to see to future budgets is a commitment to put a tax on all imported print products coming into Australia.

“The only thing that I would get excited about is if they started looking a putting a tax on imported print, I would find that to be of value. The government sees this as a ‘free economy’ but I find that contradictive to all the compliance in Australia in relation to fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay but print that is coming into Australia is from countries that are paying below standard rates. Until the government is fair dinkum about that, then this won’t change,” Michaelides said.

“We’ve got all the regulations in place here to make sure people are paid properly yet we accept printed product coming into Australia from places where the employees are paid well below real award rates. It is just wrong.

“I just think there needs to be some sort of catch-all at the import stage where goods come in from overseas and they are goods that are also being manufactured in Australia, like the printing industry, that there should be some sort of a tax on that.”

Kirsten Taylor, creative print director, Taylor’d Press

Taylor said the budget announcement is “horses for courses” as Taylor’d Press is a two-person operation that the Budget doesn’t cater to much.

Kirsten Taylor, creative print director of Taylor’d Press

“We’re so small that there are only two of us in the business. The apprentices incentive program wouldn’t make us want to line up and get one because it’s a time factor for us to be able to dedicate that investment to educate that person,” she said.

“Apprentices need the quality time and resources to be educated the way that they deserve but as a husband-and-wife team, we just don’t have the time for just the hard thing. So, for a larger business that can afford to offer the time and dedication to an apprentice, that is a great opportunity.”

She also said that the support for SMBs to go digital doesn’t quite impact Taylor’d Press as her clients value the business for its specialty products.

“The printing industry is built more around machinery, especially for SMBs in our industry. At Taylor’d press, it doesn’t make sense for us to fully head in the direction of digital as we’re a specialty supplier and still use the art of offset and letterpress in our print jobs,” she added.

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One thought on “Budget 2022-2023: Printers praise apprentice support so long as you can find one and access training

  1. Here are some facts:
    1. Valid printing Apprenticeship programmes are available in Victoria through Holmesglen TAFE.
    These include Certificate III in:
    *Prepress, Graphic Design Production;
    *Binding Finishing & Packaging.

    2. Holmesglen TAFE offer a Pre-Apprenticeship programme, Certificate II – Printing & Graphic Arts. this is a free TAFE course as an introduction to digital printing.

    3. They also offer Print Awareness, a Short Course held in the evenings as an introduction to print production procedures, from creation to press.

    A couple more ideas:
    *Provide opportunities to your existing non-skilled employees to take up apprenticeships
    *When looking for apprentices consider a “finders’ reward to your existing staff.
    *Apprentices can be any age or gender. We need more diversity especially in the production.

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