• Conservative governments and business lobby undermine apprenticeships
  • Unions mobilise to protect apprenticeships at both state and federal level
  • Liberals oversee 35 percent decrease in apprentices since election in 2013 

Twenty three year old Connor Butler has been putting in the hard yards for the past two and a half years to achieve his dream of becoming a fully qualified electrician.

“I started out on $12 an hour but the low pay and hard work didn’t bother me because I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

Connor is now only 18 months away from an electrical license. However, concern for the young sparkies following him saw him take part in a Perth protest last week, part of the Electrical Trades Union’s “Hands Off Our Trade” campaign.

New initiatives unveiled by the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and Master Electricians Australia (MEA) will shift apprenticeship costs onto apprentices and their families and make them study in their own time, unsupervised.

Connor said the move will see skills and knowledge deteriorate. “They want to do away with day release meaning 10 hour work days and then study at night for a fee. It’s a total disincentive. Young sparkies will be starting their careers in debt.”

Closer to home, NSW unions are gearing up for a battle of their own after Unions NSW and the NSW Electrical Trade Union, along with the CFMEU and the PSA all provided detailed submissions to the Baird government’s review into apprenticeship training.

“Employer groups and governments are in cahoots to cut corners and undermine apprenticeships until there is nothing left of them. We will campaign hard to ensure the government and employers keep apprenticeships practical and fair,” NSW ETU Assistant Secretary Dave McKinley said.


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