Millennials are abandoning apprenticeships because the pay is too low, they don’t like their bosses and bullying is rife.
Millennials are abandoning apprenticeships because the pay is too low, they don’t like their bosses and bullying is rife.

Apprentices walk out as Aussie jobs crisis worsens

Millennials are walking out on apprenticeships because the pay is too low, they don't like the boss and bullying is rife - particularly for women.

Industry experts say apprentices are essentially "indentured" servants and declining numbers of apprenticeships and trainees across the country reveal the full extent of the crisis.

News Corp Australia revealed on Wednesday apprentice numbers have dropped drastically across the nation - as much as 50 per cent in some capital cities. Federal Government data reveals some of the key reasons apprentices leave includes not getting along with their boss or colleagues, losing their job or being made redundant or the pay being too low.

More than 35 per cent of apprentices who left their job said bullying was a problem and 44.7 per cent of female apprentices who walked out on a workplace observed bullying. Food Trade Workers were the most likely to be bullied, according to the federal government apprenticeship employment data.

John Holland’s Leanne Tran and Kerrie Griffin are rail apprentices at Newport and enjoy their jobs. Picture Jay Town
John Holland’s Leanne Tran and Kerrie Griffin are rail apprentices at Newport and enjoy their jobs. Picture Jay Town

One apprentice who asked to remain anonymous, told News Corp Australia he had some issues with bullying but managing the TAFE workload and working almost full-time on less than $500 in the hand weekly were the main problems.

"There is so much theory to do at home and you come to TAFE and no one is supervising you and then if you don't complete you have to pay $1500 to do it again."

The first year apprentice said he can't afford to redo the course and doesn't qualify for a discount.

"I have done most of it but they enrolled me in so many subjects I didn't have time - they pack too much in."

**Above figures collated by Federal Opposition **

The Australian Industry Group's Megan Lilly said it was an issue she commonly saw among apprentices who are generally earning $44,400 at the very end of their training.

"It is a very intense workload for individuals. TAFEs must support apprentices to successfully complete their apprenticeship while also juggling the demands of work."

The latest data shows 45.7 per cent of apprentices and trainees who started in 2014 have since cancelled their contract. Rates for completions in automotive and engineering trade were 61.3 per cent and construction were 51.2 per cent, food trade worker completions were particularly low at 41.2 per cent.

Gavin Oakham is an apprentice carpenter with John Holland and likes working on big projects. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Gavin Oakham is an apprentice carpenter with John Holland and likes working on big projects. Picture: Steve Pohlner

CFMEU National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan said: "Clearly there is something going wrong in the training sector when we have such high numbers of apprentices leaving their training early." Melbourne University's Professor John Polesel believes the high dropout rate is largely to do with the lack of support and decline of school based apprenticeships.

"We have a quarter of million kids doing vocation education and training in school but only eight per cent of them are doing school based apprentice and traineeships.

"Unfortunately we have decided the easiest way around it is to import trained labour - we can't rely 100 per cent on immigration and neglect the training of our young people - we need a sensible combination of both."

Geoff Crittenden from Weld Australia said apprenticeships needed to modernise.

"You are still required to go to work for less money and more or less become indentured, it doesn't work for industry and it doesn't work for kids."

The Bendigo Manufacturing Group is so fed up with the lack of skills it is now working closely with schools to train up the next generation of workers.
The Bendigo Manufacturing Group is so fed up with the lack of skills it is now working closely with schools to train up the next generation of workers.

Due to a packed curriculum and rigid timetabling, many schools no longer offer school based apprenticeships and even current rates are dwindling with 6.7 per cent drop between 2014 and 2018. But some businesses and schools are taking matters into their own hands by creating their own school based skills program to train up future workers.

In NSW an independent school, St Phillip's Christian College in Newcastle has navigated timetabling issues by introducing evening classes with HSC SmartTrack, which focuses on practical learning.

Principal Pam O'Dea said she introduced the program after losing valuable students who weren't offered a vocational career path in school.

"By teaching HSC course subjects in the afternoons and evenings, students will be able to use their mornings to gain other valuable life and employment skills in a work environment," she said.

"We wanted to create a pathway that would inspire them and motivate them to succeed, not just scrape through."

Lauren Murray and Jordan Flynn from St Philip's Christian College who are involved in the SmartTrack program, Waratah. Picture: Supplied
Lauren Murray and Jordan Flynn from St Philip's Christian College who are involved in the SmartTrack program, Waratah. Picture: Supplied

Illawarra Business Chamber's Adam Zarth said the decline of school based apprentices was affecting business.

"My members across the construction, aged care, hospitality and disability sectors in particular are crying out for skilled workers, and would welcome a closer relationship with an industry-focused TAFE."

"There is a need to streamline enrolments and assessments, which delays the completion of training by apprentices and trainees."

"Vocational training should not be the poor cousin or the option of last resort, so as a community we share a responsibility to adjust our attitudes to this vital pathway for young people coming out of school."

Sheldon College in Brisbane runs the Science of Rockets program, which helps train up students who might not want to go to university.

"One of the things that we have identified is this need for students to have skills not just academic skills but hands on skills as well," Head of Faculty Dr David Hughes said.

Science of Rockets was started by advanced manufacturing company PFI who found they were struggling to find the skilled workers they need.

Students and a teacher at Sheldon College, Queensland which runs the Science of Rockets program with advanced manufacturing company PFI, who started the program after struggling to find skilled graduates.
Students and a teacher at Sheldon College, Queensland which runs the Science of Rockets program with advanced manufacturing company PFI, who started the program after struggling to find skilled graduates.

Melbourne's Bendigo Manufacturers Group (BMG) is also working with local schools to improve better industry pathways for students.

"We do a lot of work with secondary schools, universities and even primary. Historically the government has done programs where they have had incentives and those aren't as prevalent now, they have certainly disappeared," BMG's Mark Brennan said.

Opposition spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said the government had underspent by nearly one billion in vocational education and a spokesman for Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash said: "the gap between actual expenditure and the forward estimate does not mean that money has been removed from the system. No students or employers have been denied funds that they would have been entitled to."

Do you have an apprentice story? Email: clare.masters@news.com.au



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