Dad watched tradie kids dropped 'like hot rocks'
ENSURING tradies have every chance to finish their apprenticeships would help the number of tradespeople in Australia recover from its current 17 year low, James McGovern believes.
Mr McGovern, an Andergrove resident who works as a labourer and a truck driver in the mines, encouraged his children to pursue apprenticeships, believing it would give them more opportunities than he ever had. Given the notoriously low apprentice wage, and the fact they could earn more doing regular jobs, he also helped support them during their four-year qualifications.
But when the mining downturn hit, his son Scott, who was working to become a diesel mechanic and auto electrician, and daughter Stephanie, who was doing a building apprenticeship, were both "dropped like hot rocks" by their employers.
Now, five years later, Scott is at his third employer and still at least a year away from competing the diesel mechanic apprenticeship.
Stephanie decided to become a hair dresser instead, despite having competed two years of the building qualification.
The latest data shows that in Australia there are currently 282,000 tradespeople, down from 515,000 in 2012 and the lowest number since 2000, when 271,000 were recorded.
But as Mr McGovern pointed out, that's not for lack of trying on the part of some apprentices.
"(Learning there was a tradie shortage) blew me away," Mr McGovern said.
"We've got dozens of kids, if not hundreds of kids in the Mackay area here halfway through their trade, off working other places because they can't get their trades finished."
The data from The National Centre for Vocational Education Research also revealed that in the September 2016 quarter, compared to the September 2015 quarter, the number of apprentices entering into trades actually increased by 2.9%.
But during that same period the number completing their trades decreased by 15.9% and the number withdrawing from or cancelling trades increased by 11.9%.
"I understand the companies can't carry people through but you're also looking at your next generation of tradies coming through. They're going to have a gap because nobody bothered to put the time and effort into them," Mr McGovern said.
Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert said the State Government had doubled the payroll tax rebate incentive for apprentice employers for the 2016-2017 year. But she said the key thing that saw apprentices dropped was a lack of work, which she said government was working to change by encouraging big projects.
MORE FUNDING REQUIRED
DESPITE the number of tradies falling 45% in four years, Adani said it is confident it will find the 1000 workers it will likely need this year for its coal project.
A spokesperson for the state treasurer agreed, stating "where there is demand, supply will follow".
"There are plenty of tradies around Queensland looking for work who would jump at an employment opportunity like this," he said. Yet the Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said if the trend continued "there simply won't be enough Australians with the skills we need for the future, especially in places like Mackay".
She called for federal and state governments to "urgently" commit $1.75billion over the next five years to develop a new vision for the apprenticeship system. She also said while funding for universities and schools had soared over the past decade, vocational education and training had gone backwards in funding.
SALES GROWTH BRINGS FOUR NEW APPRENTICES
- By Tony Martin
VANDERFIELD Mackay is reaping rewards despite an overall downturn in Mackay's economy.
Growth in sales of new machinery in the agriculture sector has almost trebled, enabling the company to sign four new apprentices.
"We have taken on two full-time apprentice diesel fitters, a school-based apprentice diesel fitter and an apprentice parts interpreter," branch manager Steve Emmert said.
"Four years ago we were selling around 20 tractors a year and now we are selling between 50-60 tractors per year," Mr Emmert said.
"We struggled to find technicians during the mining boom.
"With that in mind, and our continued growth, we were able to take on more apprentices than we've done in the past."