Aust's apprentices quitting due to poor wages: survey
08/06/2012 - Despite providing the skills for our future, Australia's apprentices would be better paid flipping burgers or waiting tables — not to mention taking unskilled work in the mining sector, according to a national survey launched by the AMWU. AMWU
Paul Bastian, AMWU acting national secretary, launched the survey showing many apprentices are living on wages below the minimum wage and barely above the poverty line.
The survey revealed that: 66 per cent had considered giving up their apprenticeship due to poor wages; 40 per cent had considered giving up their apprenticeship due to lack of mentoring; and 34 per cent had considered giving up their apprenticeship due to their friends earning more after completing less training.
"Manufacturing needs skills and apprenticeships are the pathway to providing those skills so we must attract and retain people into skilled trade apprenticeships," Bastian said.
"In order to attract and retain apprentices in our trades, we must address the issue of low pay rates and we must address the issue of relativities so there are genuine incentives for people to learn and work in high skilled jobs.
"Apprentices report being paid as little as $7.60 per hour. Compare that to the $11.20 an hour workers get for making hamburgers and you'll immediately see where the drop out problem arises."
Comments received from the survey show the level of feeling among apprentices: "…it's the people that don't work in the mines that are feeling it. Being paid the award rate, there is just no incentive for them, when they can be paid more working at McDonalds," one respondent said.
Bastian said Australia needed to better value the critical skills imparted during apprenticeships and the sacrifice these workers make to provide a trade.
"We don't have a skills crisis in Australia, we have a training crisis," he said.
According to the data from the National Centre for Vocational Educational Research, 48 per cent of apprentices drop out before completing their training.
"While apprentices provide a significant value to the Australian economy, and our future as a nation, they're not being valued.
"We need to cherish the role of apprentices to our economy, industries and societies – after all, they're the future.
"Unless we respect their work and ensure it is more secure and rewarding, where will we find people who can make things in the future?"
"We must train Australians to meet the challenges of our industries now and in the future. We can maximise the employment of Australians through giving them access to apprenticeships and making those apprenticeships worthwhile. This is the high road to building a sustainable Australian economy rather than relying on overseas imports."
The AMWU along with other unions has made a claim through Fair Work Australia (FWA) to vary awards to increase apprentice wages and amend conditions to make sure they are properly compensated for training and travel costs.
A full bench of FWA has yet to hear the matter.
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