Looming trades skills shortages

Australia’s trades are suffering a mid-life crisis, as half the nation’s young apprentices drop out of their training.

NSW Skills Minister John Barilaro said with the average age of a tradesperson being 40, there was a looming shortage of plumbers, electricians and builders.

“We’re paying the price of two or three decades of telling kids that trade jobs won’t get you a great lifestyle or income,’’ he said. “Parents are encouraging kids to go to uni instead.

“But for most tradies, they end up as entrepreneurs, running their own business.’’

Mr Barilaro, who worked as a carpenter in the family business before entering politics, urged more school students to consider a trade instead of a university ­degree.

“A lot of tradies have got flash utes and cars. Because of the skills shortage, the rates of pay have ­increased,’’ he said.

Mr Barilaro said Australia should be skilling its own citizens, instead of relying so heavily on foreign ­labour hired on 457 work visas. “A 457 visa fills a gap but I don’t want Australia to rely on 457 visas as a permanent solution,’’ he said.

“It should be a stop-gap to buy some time to make sure we’re training our own.’’

Despite industry’s demand for skilled trades workers, nearly half the young Australians who start an apprenticeship drop out within four years.

Data from the National Centre for Vocational Education ­Research shows 56 per cent of ­apprentices who began training in 2010 had finished working in their trade four years later.

Only one in three apprentices in construction trades, hairdressing or the food industry completed their apprenticeships, while one-third of construction workers and 15 per cent of hairdressers pulled out of an apprenticeship within the first year.

Master Builders chief executive Wilhelm Harnisch said the trend was “disturbing’’, as the construction industry would need 300,000 extra trades workers over the next decade. “Training an apprentice is very expensive,’’ he said. “It’s mainly undertaken by small to medium-sized businesses, and when conditions become tough their willingness to take on an apprentice is reduced.’’

Mr Barilaro will tell a National Skills Week summit in Sydney today that three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations in Australia require skills in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths.

The NSW government will provide 25,000 scholarships to students wanting to gain tertiary STEM qualifications.

Courtesy of The Australian

Administrator’s note:

And you thought the China FTA  was a problem! Without a sustained effort to encourage young people back into the trades, our young folk will be reduced to university qualified waiters and bar staff – that is if the 417 holiday makers (being actively encouraged to visit and experience Australia) leave any opportunities!

God only knows where our school age leavers are going to find work!