Too few traditional trades apprentices is creating a major skills shortage for Australian industry that the ACTU estimates could cost the economy up to $9 billion in lost output over the next ten years.

Releasing a new analysis today, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

“If you think it’s hard to find a tradesperson now, it is going to become impossible soon.

In the next five years it is estimated that up to 170,000 tradespeople will leave industry and only 40,000 will enter it.

Over the next ten years, the ACTU estimates there will be a national shortage of 250,000 traditional trades apprentices.

Government figures show that job vacancies in the traditional trades have already risen 20% in the past year and are now at their highest level for 15 years.

Not only is the industry workforce ageing, but also there are too few traditional apprentices coming through the training system with the training rate of traditional apprentices declining by 15% since 1987.

The worst hit trades have been printing, metal and electrical.

The Federal Government has spent $2.3 million on television advertising in the first six months of this year trumpeting the ‘New Apprenticeships’ program. But the facts show the program is seriously flawed:

*Less than one third of the apprentices in this program are in the traditional trades two thirds are apprentices and trainees in non-traditional areas such as hospitality.

*Program incentives are biased against employers prepared to invest in a full four-year apprenticeship the same $4125 incentive is also given for a one-year trainee.

*Poor wages for apprentices is also a problem. An 18 year old entering an apprenticeship in the manufacturing industry is paid only $6.20 an hour in their first year while a fast food trainee flipping burgers starts out on up to $8.70 an hour an extra $100 a week.

*Extra incentives for employers in industries that have skill shortages are not available in metropolitan areas meaning 75% of apprentices miss out.

The ACTU calculates that the skill shortage caused by too few apprentices will cost the Australian economy around $735 million a year in lost output or up to $9 billion over the next ten years.

But there is also a major social cost to the shortfall in apprenticeship places with the lack of openings in the traditional trades directly contributing to youth unemployment.

The ACTU calls on the Government to review the New Apprenticeships program; directly employ more apprentices; require employers and tenders to provide structured training places; provide mentoring for young apprentices; and provide wage supplements for apprentices. ”