Apprenticeship and Traineeship Number Continue to Rise

The number of apprentices and trainees in jobs across the state increased 11 per cent in the year to December 2021, off the back of the NSW Government’s unprecedented investment in fee-free training.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research (NCVER) report shows NSW continues to lead the nation, with more apprentices and trainees than any other state or territory.

“The NSW Government is investing in fee-free apprenticeships and traineeships to create a pipeline of skilled workers for jobs in industries that are experiencing high demand for employees,” Ms Cooke said.

“It’s great to see the number of apprentices and trainees continuing to grow in NSW, but we want more people to make the most of free training so that they can get a first job, a new job or a better job.”

The report shows that 106,445 apprentices and trainees were in training at the end of 2021, with both commencements and completions up overall on the year before.

The number of women undertaking apprenticeships and traineeships in NSW continues to surge, with a 21 per cent increase in 2021 compared with the year before.

Minister for Skills and Training Alister Henskens said the NSW Government is removing barriers to vocational education and training and creating more opportunities than ever before for people to get skilled or upskill.

“The NSW Government’s push to turbocharge the take-up of vocational education and training is securing a brighter future for NSW, with more people getting skilled, finding jobs and growing the economy,” Mr Henskens said.

“Our record skills investment is helping people boost their budget through free training, allowing them to find in-demand jobs and contribute to historically low unemployment rates in NSW.”

More information about the report is available here: Apprentices and trainees 2021: December quarter (

Local Projects to Benefit from Regional Job Creation Fund

Member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke has announced over $1 million in funding for a total of six local projects under Round Two of the NSW Government’s Regional Job Creation Fund.

Ms Cooke has congratulated three businesses in the Cowra and Grenfell region to receive funding under the latest round.

Conron Stockcrete of Grenfell has secured $100,000 to establish Stockcrete Metal Fabrication, allowing the business to produce all metal mould fabrication components in-house.

Mulyan Pty Ltd of Cowra has secured $140,000 for the installation of specialised dehydration technology for nutraceutical and other powered food production.

Another Cowra business has secured $180,000 for the construction and fit out of a new manufacturing facility, providing a bespoke facility for the manufacture of liquid organic and non-organic fertiliser products.

“It is fantastic this investment by NSW Government is expected to create an additional 23 jobs in the area,” Ms Cooke said.

“We value and support local business and this program presents a great opportunity for innovative businesses to gain the financial boost they need to expand.”

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said the NSW Government’s $140 million Regional Job Creation Fund is on track to create over 6,500 new direct jobs in regional NSW by helping businesses expand production and provide incentives to move operations to the bush.

“The Regional Job Creation Fund continues to attract new investment from businesses and enable economic recovery across agriculture, manufacturing and tourism industries and ensure they continue to thrive now and into the future,” Mr Toole said.

“This fund allows businesses to fast-track their growth plans, expand their operations and creates a solid base for job creation in regional NSW.

“This funding exemplifies the NSW Government’s commitment to build robust regional economies, which is giving businesses, employees and their families confidence in the growth and prosperity of regional NSW.”

Under the Regional Job Creation Fund, eligible businesses could apply for grants to support the purchase of new equipment, expand facilities, create new iconic tourist experiences and visitor attractions or relocate businesses from out of state to regional NSW, which will lead to the creation of new jobs.

An additional $100 million for the Regional Job Creation Fund was included in the 2022/23 Budget. Further details will be available later in 2022.

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Women Encouraged to Apply for Return to Work Grants

Women looking for work will be able to apply for grants of up to $5,000 to fund technology, training and work essentials to help them return to the workforce, thanks to a $32 million investment in the recent NSW Budget.

Member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke has encouraged eligible women to apply for the Return to Work Program and tailored support from a Return to Work Coordinator.

“This is an opportunity for women to build the confidence and financial independence they need to return to the workforce,” Ms Cooke said.

“Women who are experiencing barriers re-entering the workforce can apply for grants of up to $5,000 to help cover the cost of common financial obstacles such as work clothes or an internet connection.”

Minister for Women Bronnie Taylor said the positive results of the program demonstrated the value of this investment.

“The feedback from more than 1,500 women who have completed the program was that it works because of its flexibility and tailored approach. 65 per cent of women secured employment, 73 per cent applied for or started education and training while an incredible 98.5 per cent found the program helpful,” Mrs Taylor said.

“I am proud to be part of a Government that looks at unique solutions for the big issues affecting women’s workforce participation through the Women’s Economic Opportunities Review.”

The Return to Work Program will continue next financial year. Consideration will be provided to priority groups.

For more information, head to:

School Holiday Skills to Boost Hospitality

Young people across region are set to benefit from fee-free hospitality training during the winter school holidays to help them get the skills they need for the jobs they want.

Member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke said the hospitality industry offers incredible opportunities and this initiative will give students aged 16 and above a great head start in the industry.

“By giving local students a foot-in-the-door, they’ll gain practical experience and build industry connections, which in turn supports their ongoing education and employment pathways and help businesses meet demand for workers,” Ms Cooke said.

Courses available include Statement of Attainment in Hospitality Skills, Statement of Attainment in Espresso Coffee and Food Safety Supervisor.

Minister for Skills and Training Alister Henskens said 1,000 free training places are up for grabs as part of a new NSW Government initiative.

“We want to provide more opportunities for young people to get the skills they need for a first job, a new job or a better job, and this program is another great example of that,” Mr Henskens said.

Since February, the NSW Government has delivered 10,000 fee-free Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) courses.

Minister for Hospitality and Racing Kevin Anderson said the hospitality sector supports more than 300,000 jobs across the State and now is the perfect time for students to gain their free qualification and enter the industry.

“These free courses will help young people get jobs at local cafes and restaurants, which will support hospitality businesses who are in need of staff,” Mr Anderson said.

Training will be delivered during the July and September school holiday periods (4-15 July 2022 and 26 September–7 October 2022) and are available through TAFE NSW and other registered training organisations.

For more information, visit

$883 Million More Reasons to Work in the Bush

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke has welcomed the NSW Government’s announcement that it will implement a major regional health workforce incentive scheme in the largest shakeup of its kind ever undertaken in the state.

Ms Cooke said the scheme will be delivered alongside new training and recruitment pathways to build a pipeline of regionally based workers and futureproof healthcare in the bush.

“This announcement is about implementing bold new measures to attract key health workers to work in our local health facilities and retaining that workforce,” Ms Cooke said.

“We know that our region is one of the best places to live, work and play, and this package will encourage graduate nurses, doctors and other clinical staff to not only take up a job in our region but set up their lives here.”

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said $883 million will be spent over the next four years to attract and retain staff in rural and regional NSW by transforming the way health clinicians are incentivised in the bush.

“This package delivers on the NSW Government’s commitment to strengthen the regional health workforce, ensuring that more than three million people who live, work and play in rural and regional NSW continue to have access to high quality healthcare well into the future,” Mr Toole said.

“These incentive packages will be tailored to not only attract more clinicians to these services but help retain those hard working staff and encourage them to put down roots.”

The package will target critical and hard to fill roles to ensure the operation of regional health facilities, including nurses and midwives, paramedics, pathologists and scientific staff, pharmacists and allied health professionals, as well as support and ancillary staff.

Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor said the package will be used to deliver innovative, bespoke incentives for staff so they move to or stay in regional NSW.

“Hard-to-fill, critical roles in rural and remote locations can be incentivised by offering health workers recruitment and retention incentive packages worth up to $10,000 per year plus assistance with accommodation and relocation and some other non-financial incentives,” Mrs Taylor said.

Incentives can include a range of benefits, such as salary boost, sign on bonuses, retention payments, additional leave, assistance with childcare expenses, assistance with transport and housing support, and access to training and education.

In addition to the incentives package, a range of targeted measures are being funded which will support the NSW Government in building a pipeline of future nurses, doctors and other clinical staff who are based in the bush and have the skills, confidence and expertise needed to work in regional health care facilities.

Mrs Taylor said one of these measures is the expansion of training positions for nurse practitioner roles in rural locations that struggle to attract doctors.

“These are highly skilled nursing professionals that can operate autonomously in complex clinical settings. The expansion of these training positions will see people in rural NSW receiving the highest level of quality care and a brighter future in terms of health outcomes,” Mrs Taylor said.

The $883 million investment will include funding for:

  • Tailored incentive programs for healthcare staff to take up and retain positions in regional, rural and remote NSW – which can include a tailored incentive package of up to $10,000 plus additional leave, relocation reimbursement, professional development and study assistance;
  • Increased training positions for nursing graduates, nurse practitioners and medical interns;
  • Expanding rural generalist and procedural training positions;
  • Career development and secondment opportunities for healthcare workers based in regional, rural and remote NSW, including for those based in metropolitan areas to ‘try out’ working in regional NSW;
  • Increased numbers of Aboriginal nurse cadetships, and
  • HECS incentive package for allied health professionals.

Treasurer Matt Kean said the rural and regional workforce boost forms part of the NSW Government’s overall record $4.5 billion investment in more than 10,000 health staff.

“We believe that access to the best quality healthcare shouldn’t be a postcode lottery. That’s why we’re recruiting 10,148 full-time equivalent staff right across NSW over the four years in what is the nation’s largest-ever health workforce boost, and 3,800 of these positions will be in regional areas,” Mr Kean said.

Student from Murrumburrah Recognised at NSW Training Awards

The region’s most outstanding apprentices, trainees, students and teachers were recognised at the Riverina 2022 NSW Training Awards ceremony last week in Griffith.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke has congratulated William Kemp from Murrumburrah who took out the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year Award at the ceremony.

“William has strong character values, is honest and reliable and can master almost anything he sets his mind to,” Ms Cooke said.

“From a young age William showed an interest in the building trade, assisting his Dad on home projects which led him to undertake studying carpentry. He is now excelling in his current job and is seen as a role model to his peers. I congratulate William on this well-deserved honour.”

Minister for Skills and Training Alister Henskens said the enormous breadth of talent amongst this year’s finalists and winners demonstrates the opportunities available for rewarding careers available through vocational education and training.

“Vocational education and training delivers real-life skills for people to help them get the jobs they want and it’s great to see so many passionate and enthusiastic young people receiving awards locally,” Mr Henskens said.

“The NSW Government is delivering a range of fee-free and low-fee training to help people get their first job, a new job or a better job, and these awards are a great way to highlight the career opportunities that are available right here in NSW.” 

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NSW Sets a New Standard on Parental Leave

Teachers, nurses, firefighters and other public sector workers across the State will be encouraged to share childcaring responsibilities between partners under an overhaul of the NSW Government’s paid parental leave scheme.

From October, there will no longer be a distinction between a ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’ carer, meaning every mother and father in the public sector will be entitled to at least 14 weeks’ paid parental leave.

The NSW Government will also offer parents an additional 2 weeks’ ‘bonus leave’ if paid parental leave entitlements are more equally shared between partners.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke welcomed the announcement which is part of the 2022-23 NSW Budget.

“This initiative is about supporting families by allowing them to share child care responsibilities”, Ms Cooke said.

“It is part of recognising that both parents deserve the ability to choose a career, have a family or have both.”

The NSW Government will also expand the window in which public servants can take paid parental leave from one year to two years after birth, and extend paid parental leave to long-term or permanent foster carers.

The ‘bonus leave’ scheme is one of the first of its kind in Australia and will apply where each parent (including parents employed outside the public sector) takes at least 12 weeks’ parental leave and exhausts any paid parental leave offered by their employers. Single parents will be entitled to the full 16 weeks of paid parental leave.

The paid parental leave reform is part of the NSW Government’s ongoing commitment to supporting women in the workforce, policy reform and investment into women’s economic participation.

NSW Health Workforce to Receive Historic Boost

The NSW Government has announced a record 10,148 full-time equivalent staff will be recruited to hospitals and health services across the State over four years, in the nation’s largest-ever health workforce boost.

Member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke said the $4.5 billion investment over four years made possible by the NSW Government’s 2022-23 Budget is intended to relieve pressure on existing staff and ensure there are appropriate levels of health staffing for its health infrastructure projects.

“We acknowledge the tireless efforts of our local health heroes throughout the pandemic and are proud to make this record investment to give them the support they need,” Ms Cooke said.

“This $4.5 billion investment will boost the ranks of our health workforce, helping to give relief and support to our hardworking existing staff, provide the staffing profile for increased elective surgeries and ensure we continue to deliver quality health care closer to home.”

“We are ensuring that our health heroes get the respite and back-up that they need, while our communities have access to the healthcare they deserve.”

7,674 more workers will be recruited in the first year, including nurses and midwives, doctors, paramedics, pathologists and scientific staff, pharmacists and allied health professionals, as well as support and ancillary staff who ensure the continued operations of NSW hospitals and the wider public health system. 

“The NSW Liberals and Nationals have delivered 170 hospitals and health facilities since coming into Government, with a further 110 underway,” she said.

“This funding ensures new and upgraded hospitals such as the Murrumburrah-Harden Health Service will have the workforce to provide services to our community today and well into the future.”

A strong feature of this health workforce boost is the record investment into NSW Ambulance, with $1.76 billion announced to recruit 2,128 new staff and open 30 more stations across NSW.

NSW Government Lifts Public Sector Wages and Recognises Health Workers

The NSW Government has today announced a new public sector wages policy to provide increased pay for public sector employees including nurses, teachers and paramedics.

Member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke said the new two-year policy will provide among the highest public sector wages growth in the country with employees offered a 3.0 per cent remuneration increase per annum in 2022-23 and 2023-24, with a possible further 0.5 per cent on offer in 2023-24 for employees that make a substantial contribution to productivity-enhancing reforms.

“This provides for remuneration increases of up to 6.5 per cent over two years under the new policy,” Ms Cooke said.

The policy will apply to new industrial agreements that are struck from 1 July 2022.

The NSW Government announced an additional one-off payment of $3,000 to be provided to employees in the NSW Health Service in recognition of their work on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The payment covers paramedics, midwives, cleaners and all other permanent staff employed by the NSW Health Service.

“The $3,000 one-off payment to health workers recognises the contribution of a workforce that went to extraordinary lengths during the pandemic,” Ms Cooke said. 

“The new wages policy continues the NSW Government’s record of strengthening frontline services and ensuring that NSW can continue to deliver the best services in the country.”

Ms Cooke said that in the current economic climate, the increase in wages was a fair and sustainable policy decision.

“NSW is currently enjoying the lowest unemployment on record. To attract and retain the best talent, it is important to maintain competitive wages – and in the context of a strong and growing economy this two-year increase to wages is an affordable and sensible policy.”

The new wages policy has been developed to support productivity-enhancing reforms and modernisation of the public service. 

Additional pay increases are available for workplace reforms that deliver better outcomes for the public.

Further details will be announced in the June State Budget.

Boost for the NSW Ambulance Service

The NSW Government has announced a $1.76 billion boost to frontline emergency care to deliver 2,128 new recruits and 30 more ambulance stations as part of the NSW Government’s 2022-23 Budget.

Member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke said the record investment will ensure the community has access to a quality Ambulance service for years to come.

“With ambulance services across the country experiencing unprecedented demand, the NSW Government is ensuring our communities and our paramedics are well placed for the challenges ahead,” Ms Cooke said.

“In addition to 30 new ambulance stations, this record funding will deliver extra paramedics, ambulance support staff, nurses and doctors, increasing capacity from call centres to call outs. NSW Ambulance will have the largest paramedic workforce in the country.”

“This is great news for our community. We rely on our local paramedics and now they’ll have additional support to continue the invaluable work they do for us.”

The $1.76 billion over four years will provide NSW with 1,857 extra paramedics, 210 ambulance support staff, 52 nurses and eight doctors.

In this Budget, the NSW Government will deliver 30 new stations including at Warilla, Kincumber, Lisarow, Gateshead, Swansea, Cherrybrook, Raby and Narellan in the coming year, with 22 more stations to come over the following three years.