Training drought sparks skills fear

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Training drought sparks skills fear

Employers fear skills shortages will emerge in the building industry within 12 months as the number of people taking apprenticeships slumps.

Tight business conditions and an emphasis on going to university ahead of training for a trade is being blamed for a fall of nearly 13 per cent in the overall number of people doing apprenticeships.

Master Builders Association chief executive Wilhelm Harnisch said the number of construction apprentices in training had fallen to fewer than 44,000.

“This is less than half the number needed to meet the industry’s ongoing skilled workforce requirements, a problem that will be exacerbated as demand increases,” Mr Harnisch said.

He called for a new model to revive the apprenticeship brand “to overcome community perceptions that a trade is inferior to a tertiary qualification, recognise apprenticeships are an investment in the future of the young person as well as the business, and include mentoring to boost the numbers seeing their apprenticeships through and emerging with a qualification”.

The most recent figures show apprenticeship commencements fell 25.9 per cent last year, with the number of under-19s starting an apprenticeship falling from 117,000 in 2008 to 85,000 last year.

Mr Harnisch said with forecasts of strong demand in residential and commercial construction, skills shortages would again emerge, especially in trades such as bricklaying.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Kate Carnell said one of the problems was that government support for apprenticeships had been reduced over several years.

She said many industries were concerned about skills shortages as the economy improved.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the government was moving to streamline the regulation of the apprenticeships ­system.

He said the government’s $20,000 trade support loan was also designed to boost the number of apprentices and the 20 per cent discount on obtaining the qualification was designed to boost completion rates.

Sid Maher
The Australian, June 14, 2014