30 Oct 2017

Building industry looks at profiling for apprentice loyalty

8:24 am on 30 October 2017

The building and construction industry is now taking steps to make sure more apprentices stay on with their employers.

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Photo: 123RF

Some 35 to 40 percent of Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation apprentices leave their employers within 18 months of starting.

Many find other jobs in the sector or change trade, through the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation, but about 20 percent were either leaving the industry entirely or finding employment through other channels.

BCITO chief executive Warwick Quinn said there was a number of reasons why apprentices leave.

"They're in the wrong trade, or they want to change employers, or due to personal circumstances, on either the employer or the employee's side. It's effectively a waste of effort and time on all the parties, so if we could reduce that, it would be beneficial as well," he said.

Mr Quinn said they were looking at new measures such as better information for prospective apprentices and ensuring interviews were more thorough.

"We're just about to embark on a research programme, which provides us some better profiling, so we can understand what potential learners might be at higher risk than others, due to a bunch of circumstances," Mr Quinn said.

Certified Builders Association's Grant Florence said about a third of carpentry apprenticeships left their employers in the first 12 to 18 months.

He said this figure isn't new, but poaching could now be a factor.

"We've got a major shortage of trade and skilled tradespeople and there may be instances where people are abandoning apprenticeships for an extra $5 or $10 an hour, which is a shame," Mr Florence said.

Mr Florence said it was encouraging there is now an older generation of apprentices coming through the ranks, which may eventually lead to a reduction turnover.

Building Industry Federation chief executive Bruce Kohn said the issue had only recently been brought to his attention.

"The employer devotes an amount of time - and of course, cost - to that amount of training. Then the person leaves and the employer is left holding a baby, as it were, but the cost is already on the books. It is a major problem," he said.

Mr Kohn believed the problem was not with employers, but rather because apprentices were simply deciding the role was not for them.

He thought a way to avoid this would be to have qualifications available in certain skills first so those training would know if they were prepared to do the job.

"They may not go on with further skills, but if they can do things such as laying bricks, or tiles, or concreting, that in itself is at least a qualification," he added.

Mr Kohn said apprentices should be held accountable to the commitment they were making.

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