12/11/2008 - 22:00

Incentives needed for apprenticeships

12/11/2008 - 22:00

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WHILE apprenticeship programs have been a focus for the government in Western Australia during the past few years, the sector is still suffering from a participation shortfall.

WHILE apprenticeship programs have been a focus for the government in Western Australia during the past few years, the sector is still suffering from a participation shortfall.

Recruitment and migration specialists at the WA Business News boardroom forum said more could be done to bring people into apprenticeship programs.

Skill Hire recruitment state manager Paul Whittle said the lack of effort put into apprenticeship programs 20 years ago had created a shortfall that was hurting businesses in the current climate.

"It's in the last five years that we saw a big uptake in apprenticeships, with more government incentives and advertising campaigns," he said.

In 2006, several apprenticeships programs were reduced from four to three years' duration on the condition that the apprentice gained the required skills set in that period of time.

But although more young people had been taking up apprenticeships in recent years, Mr Whittle said there were insufficient incentives for businesses to take on adult apprentices.

"One of the biggest problem is the fact that the government has actually reduced all the incentives for adult apprentices about three years ago; basically it's just not profitable for a business to take on an adult apprentice," he said.

"There are a lot of adults out there who would like to be mature-age apprentices but businesses would just not take them on, because it's not viable for them. Are you going to pay someone $9 per hour or $22 per hour for the same skills set?"

Some at the forum said the apprenticeship system was a valuable scheme for employers and apprentices.

"You go to university and come out with a debt of $100,000, you earn zero money for three years unless you do other part time work," Mr Whittle said.

"With an apprenticeship you're being paid to go to school, it's not a lot, but you're getting paid to work. You're getting paid your holidays, you're being looked after as an individual, when you walk out, you're getting paid $100,000 a year."

However, TR7 director Shane Anderson said the system should be further reviewed regarding pay and the duration of apprenticeships.

BHP Billiton IR and HR manager Dave Sproule said apprentices could be a risky investment for employers.

"It's very easy for an apprentice to move on, so if you're spending a large amount of capital up front in the training of someone and you get no dividend, then why would you do it?"

The most recent legislative change to the apprenticeship scheme at the state government level was a bill introduced in September that includes a greater role for competency based training in apprenticeships.

The State Training Board's advisory bodies were to be consolidated from 14 to 10 councils, with industry able to have a direct input in drafting policy through a position on the board.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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