29/07/2010 - 00:00

Skill Hire paves way for apprentices

29/07/2010 - 00:00


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Albany-BASED training provider Skill Hire has become the country’s largest employer of bricklaying apprentices, with 130 bricklaying apprentices on its books.

Albany-BASED training provider Skill Hire has become the country’s largest employer of bricklaying apprentices, with 130 bricklaying apprentices on its books.

Skill Hire is also the largest employer of building and construction apprentices in Western Australia, with about 600 in total, accounting for 25 per cent of bricklaying apprenticeships in the sector.

Established by founding directors Robert Stockdale, Gregory Stocks and Tony Fitzpatrick in 1995, the private training and employment company has 14 offices across the state.

Since its inception, Skill Hire has diversified its services, which now includes fee-for-service recruitment, nationally accredited training, and indigenous program partnerships with business and government.

As part of the company’s strategic development, a board was formed in early 2009, which has been chaired by Mt Romance founder Stephen Birkbeck since late 2009.

The board also appointed venture capitalist Ian Murchison as an independent non-executive director in late 2009 to strengthen Skill Hire’s financial goals.

Australian Brick and Blocklaying Training Foundation’s WA manager, Dean Pearson, said Skill Hire’s capacity as a statewide one-stop shop for the industry had led to its increased market share.

“There are a lot of legal ramifications that can make it difficult to employ an apprentice and sometimes it’s not clear where the next job will come from.

Skill Hire’s [post-training] service gives the host flexibility if they are unable to maintain an apprentice.”

Mr Pearson said while about 65 per cent of apprentices were employed through group trainers, Skill Hire was one of a handful of employers in WA that also offered pre-apprenticeship courses for bricklayers.

He also said the company’s conversion rate towards apprentice numbers was noticeably high.

“The entire company has a willingness to work with hosts (employers) to not only sustain current relationships, but also push into new territories,” Mr Pearson said.

Skill Hire group training executive Bob Hodnett said while the industry’s workforce demand came in the usual peaks and troughs, his group enabled employers to employ apprentices on a flexible basis.

“If the work dries up or the apprentice is not performing – or even if the apprentice is not happy – the employer can send them back; it’s a win-win situation,” he said.

“It gives flexibility to the industry because the employer is not obliged to keep the apprentice on for the entire three years.”

Mr Hodnett said Skill Hire covered all ancillary costs for the first year of the apprenticeship, such as annual leave, an initiative made possible through subsidy support from the ABBTF.

In an election pledge announced last week, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Labor would spend $25 million on work experience places and invest in more trade training centres.

Mr Hodnett said Skill Hire was concerned with the number of young bricklayers (and carpenters) who did not finish their apprenticeship, and believed the initiatives announced by the federal government were a step in the right direction.

“Many of the apprentices who have terminated prior to qualification in the past and still work in the industry will now be able to seek skills recognition or top up their skills in a training centre [such as Skill Hire], as long as they have significant experience,” he said.

Mr Pearson said the process needed to be reasonably simple, as no two training providers had the same methodology.



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