Wouldn’t it be something if the dollar signs in this post could represent U.S. dollars as well? Please read on: In Australia, the federal government will invest $100 million in recruiting and training 21,000 young people for various manufacturing industries, including printing. The Printing Industries Association of Australia says that under a “kickstart bonus” plan that will be in effect from December 1, 2009 through the end of February 28, 2010, employers of apprentices under 19 years of age can be eligible for first-year payments of $4,850, an increase of $3,350 over the $1,500 presently offered. After nine months, employers will be eligible for another $2,500. The bonus is in addition to funds already available from the Australian Apprenticeships Incentive Program. The kickstart bonus is being offered as an anti-recessionary countermeasure on behalf of employers in what the government calls “traditional trades”: occupational categories on the National Skills Needs List of jobs where labor shortages are anticipated. The list includes binding and finishing workers as well as “printing machinists” (press operators). The association also reports that $20 million of the $100 million will support 5,000 pre-apprenticeship places to give young people the skills they need to successfully complete a trade. The association praises the plan, noting that increased payments to employers can help make apprenticeship recruitment possible for many printing companies. “In difficult times when apprenticeship numbers are falling quite dramatically in our industry, it is a welcome incentive for companies to reconsider their positions to take advantage of the funding,” says Neal McLary, the group’s training policy manager. Comment: Australia isn’t the U.S., and the countries’ respective printing sectors operate on different scales, but it’s hard not to ask, “If it can work there, why not here, too?” What would be wrong with the U.S. printing industry and its associations seeking apprenticeship subsidies from Washington, the states, and local governments? If funding of this kind were available, would the results embarrass those who maintain that training young people for printing’s “traditional trades” is a dead end because those jobs are vanishing? We could have a great deal to learn from the Australian experiment.