Let’s Get Apprentices Earlier

Discussion Paper. Subject Apprenticeships

As a kid who left school in Junior level, that is 15 years or about’s and started a trade in the January of 1966 I was a naive, scared, and totally oblivious to anything other than not upsetting anyone in my workspace.

Plucked from the schoolroom I knew nothing about life skills other than those I had learned on the sporting grounds and family discipline.

Looking back that was not a bad thing as I listened and consumed everything my Master, my Tradesman, and technical teachers imparted sometimes to the letter.

Being a kid in a mans world can be confronting but as you mature you you learn quickly how the world really works.

My Boilermaking trade at the Shipyard and Kangaroo Point gave me a understanding of other cultures, customs, from all walks of life as it was within walking distance from Yungabah Hostel a entry point to migrants to Australia and often a job for those men and women starting a new or escaping their past.

My eyes and ears were open to their experiences, expectations, good and bad from their homelands and often was privileged to their cultural traditions, broadening my education in life.

All this was happening before I was old enough to get a car licence at 17, have a beer legally at 21, or go to war at 19.

I was lucky but the system was such that when you are at a age, naive or not you can start to shape a personal profile of experience where maturity comes a dam site earlier that today’s youth.

Today kids are encourage to stay in the school system even though they may not be suited. In school apprenticeships have pluses and minuses but basically protect the kid from reality of the real workforce where it’s get to work yourself and learn your trade, please your Master and employer.

That position of Master has been disposed of as he or she was totally responsible to ensure the apprentice was not exploited, learned ever aspect of his trade, and respected his superiors status.

Yes my Master was not backward of putting a smart arse on his arse with a backhander or straight left if you misbehaved, and was supported by the union rep if it was warranted.

Imagine that today!! Mummy and Daddy delirious with uproar for someone doing what they should have done earlier in childhood.

Apprenticeship today on a 4 year time delivers 22 to 24 year olds specifically trained only on what phase of the trade they have been in contact. Often employers see cheap labour till they get too expensive then flick them, and the system allows that, where before employers and the boards were legally bound to find a apprentice a job at his or her level if the firm went broke.

Some 4th year apprentices can be married with kids and expected to live on those wages, no wonder they are leaving.

Mid life apprenticeship are a result of the system not doing its job earlier, selling the trades, and paying the wages. Yes the Unions must share the blame proportional but the fact the culture of subcontractors has destroyed the standards of all trades for the magic dollar.

I know a few tradesmen that have kept their contract and turned out magnificent tradesmen, fully equiped and experienced to handle any job set before them but sadly on completion they must expand their knowledge and move on.

This often causes bad blood as often they will go out in opposition to their former boss.

In my case on completion I was handed my indentures and told to move on or get sacked and would be welcomed back after about 3-4 years somewhere else.

I did, moved to structural steel and finally left the trade about 8 years later.

Cutting to the chase what I’m saying is we need to get potential apprentices early, when they can absorb everything, in a environment and culture where they see they can have a future, and prepared to cop a little pain early in the game to reap the benefit on completion.

We need to have manufacturing industries and start building things here, as it’s cheaper in the long run to have them paying tax, buying stuff than keeping them on the dole or in part time farcical jobs that make the working poor poorer.

The crunch is coming and believe me infrastructure will be our way out and the shiney arses will be the first casualty.