There’s no doubt small businesses tend to have far less cash reserves than bigger businesses, so COVID-19 can be devastating not only for the small business owner, but also for the livelihoods of their apprentices and trainees, and the families they support.
Traineeships can be up to two years in length, whilst Apprenticeships are usually three to four. Australia has had a shortage of skilled trades for decades and this new economic downturn could severely constrain the pipeline of trainees and apprentices moving through the system.
Any decline in people starting and completing traineeships and apprenticeships will be felt for years to come and threatens any recovery effort by removing highly skilled workers from industries trying to rebuild post COVID-19.
Now is the time for employers to find a balanced middle ground between managing short-term finances and keeping the skills you need in your business, to be able to grow as the government removes restrictions on trade and movement.
It’s never been more vital that trainees and apprentices remain connected to their workplace, every dollar they earn is another dollar invested in building economic recovery, and gives you the capacity to capture more economic value as business begins to grow again.
There’s no simple solution to managing your small business through the current economic environment; however, there is a range of actions you should consider implementing to retain your staff and position your business to take advantage of the recovery.
1. Understand your current financial position
It’s important to make decisions based on accurate and complete information. Talk to your accountant about your best options to manage your cashflow and trade through this period.
2. Check your eligibility for government assistance
The Australian government is spending billions to enable you to retain staff through wage subsidies, maximise tax benefits of business investment, defer tax payments, and gain access to low-interest loans.
3. Contact your bank and insurance company
Most banks have introduced new loan deferral arrangements for small business loans and home mortgages. In addition, many insurers also have provisions for deferring insurance premiums.
4. Communicate with your apprentice/trainee
Now is the time to build loyalty with your staff by being transparent about the impact COVID-19 is having on your business and how your plans will likely impact them. It’s also important you familiarise yourself with your obligations as an employer and seek appropriate advice.
5. Find the opportunities to become better
Tough financial times prepare you for future success. Now is the time to reconsider how you have been doing business and any changes you can implement to make your business model more resilient. How do you expect your customers to behave moving forward? How can you refine the way you deliver services to better accommodate your customers and capture new business opportunities?
Apprentices and trainees need our help now, more than ever. There are no guarantees of a quick return to typical employment conditions, however without our apprentices and trainees, the risk to the economy will potentially last beyond the immediate future and have a lasting impact on the employment prospects of young Australians.
By Craig White, Group Training Manager