'Huge concern': Apprentice intake drops in Gladstone

THERE is huge concern for the future of Gladstone's skilled workforce as our region's "big hitters" drop the number of new apprentices hired each year.

As few as 19 first year apprentices were hired this year by Gladstone's largest employers, a figure that has Gladstone state member Glenn Butcher worried.

Mr Butcher, a qualified fitter and turner, declared it was a "huge concern" and that something needed to change.

Speaking to about 200 residents concerned about job security in Gladstone, he said the dwindling number of tradesmen would have nation-wide impacts.

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Mr Butcher's said QAL, Rio Tinto Yarwun, Orica Yarwun and BSL needed to start employing more apprentices, and the Labor Party member said he was ready to step up too.

"To hear that this morning, that we have as little as 19 apprentices employed this year across those big employers who have hired so many in the past - and I was one of them back in the day - to see so few come through is a huge concern," Mr Butcher said.

"We know that there's been considerable drops in the past five years; for example, Yarwun and QAL have reduced it down to zero or two or three."

Mr Butcher completed a fitter and turner apprenticeship almost 30 years ago alongside his twin brother Wayne, who is now a Senior Sergeant at Gladstone Police.

Boyne Smelter Limited did not hire new apprentices this year, however they have advertised for their 2018 apprenticeship intake.

At Queensland Alumina Limited, five new apprentices were hired this year. Since 1968, 823 people have completed apprenticeships at QAL.

Four new apprentices were hired at NRG this year, two electrical and two mechanical, taking their figure to 26 employed apprentices.

One new apprentice was employed at Orica Yarwun this year. A spokesperson for the company explained they usually employed one apprentice each year.

A Rio Tinto Yarwun spokesperson said, "in addition to maintaining our apprenticeship programme, this year we are recruiting entry-level process technician trainees."  

Revealing the figure during a speech at yesterday's NRG rally, Mr Butcher said he will begin campaigning for "a raft of measures" to encourage employers to hire first and second year apprentices.

"This is a huge concern as these are the industries who should be putting our kids through the system, for the young people in the area who aren't interested in university," Mr Butcher said.

"And that's the case for plenty of Gladstone kids, who see their dad working at QAL or BSL and they want to do the same and become a tradesman.

"In Gladstone we have GAGAL that's struggling to find businesses to hire first year apprentices because they believe they're a cost to the company, because they need tradesmen to show them the way," Mr Butcher said.

He wants to see specific guidelines for apprentices in State Government initiatives.



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