16/01/2007 - 22:00

Building industry concerned over apprentice recruitment

16/01/2007 - 22:00

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Keeping up with Western Australia’s powerhouse economy is presenting a number of critical challenges for the building and construction industry, not limited to labour shortages, cost blow outs and planning delays.

Keeping up with Western Australia’s powerhouse economy is presenting a number of critical challenges for the building and construction industry, not limited to labour shortages, cost blow outs and planning delays.

Another issue of serious concern is the nation’s ageing workforce and an apprentice training system, which is reportedly struggling to keep its recruits and replace those skilled tradespeople who are lost.

The Master Builders Association of Australia estimates that some 80,000 skilled building workers will exit the industry by 2010, to be replaced by only 40,000 new apprentices who will have completed their trade courses, leaving a shortfall of 40,000 skilled tradespeople.

Compounding this problem is the high dropout rate of building industry apprentices who are failing to complete their training, translating to a loss of approximately 8,000 to 10,000 apprentices a year nation wide.

MBA WA acting director Kim Richardson told WA Business News the industry was currently operating at equilibrium with a majority of those apprentices re-employed in the industry.

However, he warned the industry could lose ground in the next ten years when a third of the workforce aged over 45 are expected to retire.

“Twenty to thirty per cent of apprentices are leaving their training each year and that’s particularly high. Every industry is trying to counter that, it’s not sustainable,” he said.

“When apprentices are getting paid $300 a week and a sub-contractor taps them on the shoulder with an offer of $800 a week to work as a tradesperson, its easy to see why they leave.”

On the other side of the coin, employers wishing to take on building apprentices are reportedly facing average bills of $30,000 per apprentice over three years, as well as the loss of productivity in their first year while an apprentice is training.

Government incentives of between $4,000 and $6,000 per apprentice are widely considered to be inadequate.

Mr Richardson said there was no silver bullet solution to these competing problems, but he suggested the easiest and simplest way to make apprenticeship schemes financially attractive to employers was by increasing incentive payments and/or exempting payments from tax.

Making trades more attractive as a career path to young people in schools was also an area in great need of assistance from federal and state governments, he said. 

These and other recommendations form part of a Training Blueprint presented to the Council of Australian Governments by the MBA last month, which sets out industry concerns and provides recommendations to the COAG training reform agenda.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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