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Why are Apprentice Numbers in Free Fall !

The latest figures from NCVER state that apprenticeship numbers have fallen 50 % in five years.  In 2013 there were 2017,010 completions we now have only 261,925 apprenticeships registered across all stages from year one through four.


The Government, stakeholders and RTO’s are crying out why is this happening? What can be done?  And in true form they will move to collect research and data from all the wrong sources and throw some money at it via a fund or program maybe a not for profit and go into selling mode.


Not what we need. 


Speaking from a manufacturing, engineering and constructions space, there are a number of reasons why this is happening.  Some of it is reactive to poor Government decisions some of it is the change in the landscape of the trade industry and the new environment that business is working in. 


The current environment is not the same as it was twenty years ago, we have very limited large companies and in fact most of our companies now employ less that 20 staff directly, the use of sub contractors is a common choice and not only for private enterprise our councils, now use this systems also the Local councils were once are large provider of training our young tradespersons, these numbers across many of the LGA’s has significantly declined. 


Small companies are time poor and many have to weigh up the time it takes to invest in a young person for what they are going to get out of it.  Every business does this return on investment.  This is not selfish it is survival in a market that is fierce.


We also have the new wave of young people who have significantly poor social and emotional intelligence, I don’t want to label all of them in this basket but we are seeing this trend across all industries this is a challenge when you are working in a dangerous environment where you need to be able to rely on the soft skills of listening, following instructions, communication, manners and being on time to name a few.


Then we have the reactions that we are seeing in some of the poor government decisions.  Making our nation the clever country.  The University pathway being driven down the necks of parents and students as the benchmark of intelligence, success, financial reward and peer acceptance.  Even our TAFE has moved away from its core role a role of such great importance, that of training our skilled labor,  having fallen victim to this same mentality of being educators and trying ever so hard to move into a perceived more important higher level of educating. Funding striped from the VET sector limiting their budgets to spend on equipment at a time when we should be investing more in high tech equipment to train the next generation so that we may be competitive in the global market industry now face.

The decision that high schools and teachers with a university degree but only a one week welding certificate  can now train trade skills.  WHAT ?  the concept to engage students early to develop a desire for a trade career path is excellent, I would advocate that this is started much earlier as is done in the German school system.  HowevEr teachers are not tradesmen, they are not working in the industry, and competent in a classroom workshop is not industry ready.  Asking industry to then take them at second year when the industry intelligence is first year because they have a piece of paper shows the lack of respect for the highly skilled industry men and women we have in this country.  While there are some trades that have had this removed it is still an area that has many shades of grey and has impacted the take up in some industries of apprentices.


It appears our Government doesn’t understand planning, the supply side of the economy our future workforce or the actual engine room of this country which is the SME’s in the trade based industries, they are to caught up in process and procedure and playing on the sidelines of industry to get the box ticked until the next election. 


The future workforce conversation is much bigger than the points in this post, it is a complex issues and one that requires long term planning not a quick fix, industry has to plan years in advance, we need our Governments to have the same mentality.  However at its basic form where community, industry, media, parents and schools are engaged, we all need to advocate for trades. 


Our communities our country need our tradesmen and women they are the innovators, the tinkers the leaders of creation, this is not to diminish our academics at all we need both and we need to understand they are of equal importance.  

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