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Trades trouble looms

Thursday, 1st May, 2014

West State Training Manager Andrew Pressler says the combination of an ageing workforce and fewer apprentices could result in a shortage of tradespeople. West State Training Manager Andrew Pressler says the combination of an ageing workforce and fewer apprentices could result in a shortage of tradespeople.

By Nick Gibbs

A reluctance to commit the time and money towards training new apprentices may result in a shortage of tradespeople in the city, according to the manager of West State Training.

Andrew Pressler told the BDT the trend stemmed from a tendency of newly-qualified tradespeople to take high paying jobs on the mines rather than continuing to work for the employer who invested in their training.   

“A lot of builders and carpenters aren’t putting them on,” Mr Pressler said.

“It’s a lot of time and effort to put in over four years. It’s a major issue.” 

Out of town firms winning major contracts in the city and drawing funds away from local companies was adding to the declining confidence, according to Mr Pressler.

West State Training supplied labourers to construction firm National Buildplan which won the contract for the BH Hospital extension, resulting in the loss of around $45,000 in unpaid wages when it went into administration last year. 

“We’ve been advised we won’t get any money,”  Mr Pressler said, after months of correspondence with the appointed administrator BRI Ferrier.

“That’s money lost to our community.” 

West State employs seven apprentices and two trainees who it leases out to local businesses. 

City Council has been a consistent employer of new apprentices, however Mr Pressler noted its financial position meant its capacity to do so was diminished.

The comments follow statistics released by Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley stating that just 0.5 per cent of 15-19 year olds in NSW are enrolled in school-based apprenticeships despite skills shortages for plumbers, electricians and carpenters among others.  

This showed that “Labor’s deliberate effort to put university on a pedestal over trades has put Australia’s economic success at risk,”  she said. 

Ms Ley said the return of a national approach was needed and welcomed a recent agreement with the states and territories to work with the Federal Government to update the national school apprenticeship framework.

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