The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has applauded the Rudd Government’s pledge to invest $187 million to double job training through the Productivity Places initiative.

ARA executive director Richard Evans said the Federal Government’s commitment to increase the number of Productivity Places from 57,000 to 113,000 is great news, particularly for SME retailers who are seeking more skilled personnel, but might have lacked the resources because of the economic downturn.

“The retail sector has been experiencing a deficit in skilled talent and this has created a huge demand for training within the sector. To remain competitive with other industries, retailers need to incentivise by creating career development prospects to retain staff and attract new people to the industry,” said Evans.

“The Productivity Places Program has been a successful model because it provides participants with hands on experience ensuring they are job ready. At the same time it offers further progression by offering up to courses up to Certificate IV level.

“From our experience through the ARA Retail Institute’s Retail Employment Pathways initiative, which was funded by the Government’s Productivity Program, a large proportion of the trainees go on to paid employment filling the void of skilled staff within the sector and creating jobs.

Evans said the doubling of Productivity Places not only provides more skilled labour to meet industry needs, it is also a good measure for keeping the economy strong by reducing unemployment and ensuring people have money to spend. The government’s $10.4 billion Economic Security Strategy including handouts and tax rebates for pensioners and other consumers to boost Christmas spend will ensure there is extra revenue moving through the economy.

“Retailers applaud any move to reinvigorate consumer sentiment and start the upwards trend for consumer spending in time for the 2008 Christmas season. Furthermore, by investing significant funds in training retailers will be better equipped to staff their businesses to cope with the boost in demand and get back on track,” said Evans.