Youth jobs slump: Drop in apprenticeships due to building slowdown

SUNRAYSIA school leavers are facing bleaker job prospects with new statistics revealing that young apprentice numbers have fallen dramatically this year.

The Victorian Training Market Quarterly Report – Q3 2012,  released by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, revealed that the number of apprentices in Victoria aged 15 to 19 had dropped 13 per cent over the past 12 months to September. 

While consistent with a slight downward trend across the state, the decrease in apprenticeships for 15 to 19-year-olds is significantly greater than the 5 per cent drop in apprentices of all ages over the same period.

Local apprenticeships officers said the figures – an overview of all industries – could be explained by tough economic conditions and the waning construction industry.

Despite only representing MEGT Australian Apprentice Centre’s Mildura office for five weeks, Caleb Sherwell said a drop in apprentice numbers had been immediately evident.

“It definitely has dropped just in these five weeks, I’ve seen it straight away,” Mr Sherwell said.

“There is a lot of construction around the place (and that is) not as ‘full-on’ now as it was prior.”

On December 1, the Australian Government sought to address falling apprenticeship numbers by temporarily recommencing its Kickstart initiative.

That involves rewarding employers of apprentices in construction trades with additional incentive payments of up to $3350 – on top of the $5000 they already receive – until February 28.

“I’ve been cold calling employees to take apprentices ... with the Kickstart campaign but there has not really been many forthcoming,” Mr Sherwell said.

“The incentives (for taking on apprentices) are OK but construction businesses are not going to pay for an employee ... if there’s not the work there,” Mr Sherwell said.

“The next few months until February 28 will show a better picture because employers in construction and carpentry have been thrown more incentive money.

“It will be slow in January but February will hopefully pick up, but next year ... I’m not sure if it will get better.”

Mr Sherwell added that it would be hard to match the high apprentice numbers experienced previously.

For more of this story, purchase your copy of Wednesday's Sunraysia Daily 19/12/2012.

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