Saturday, April 28th, 2012
DARIO Andlovec has had itchy feet all his life, but now that they're encased in steel-capped boots five days a week, he's less inclined to indulge them.

After working as a fabricator, computer technician and labourer, Andlovec, 51, has accepted an engineering-mechanical apprenticeship and finally feels his career settling.

He has taken the drop in pay and position in his stride while working to gain greater responsibility with Sumner Park company Associated Iron and Steel, which specialises in building exploration drilling rigs for the mining industry.

But he says it's not for everyone. "When you become an apprentice you start from the bottom, like learning to walk again. These are the drastic changes you find yourself in. You have to picture the change first," he says.

"When you're pushing 50, you should have your house paid off and things like that. It makes it easier to juggle your decisions. "It's different for a guy who's 35 and into kids, cars and a house.

"How do you juggle huge debts when you're looking at a possible pay cut from $27 an hour to say half that?"

Sarina Russo Apprenticeship Services general manager Steve Wyborn says there are 600 trade qualifications on offer in Australia and there is a severe shortage of mature-aged apprentices across the board.

Tapping into what he describes as an able and dependable mature aged workforce is vital to correct the lack of skilled workers in Australia.

"Mature-aged apprentices tend to have a greater level of understanding and productivity early so they tend to complete things faster," he says.

National Apprenticeships Program director Alan Sparks says more than 60 per cent of people in trade training are older than 21 because school leavers now tend because school-leavers now tend to continue in further education, and members of Generations X and Y have taken longer to decide on their career paths.

Sparks' program is tasked with fast-tracking apprenticeships for adults from the traditional four years to as little as 18 months, to inject them into industries that are struggling to fill places.

Projects such as the National Broadband Network and addressing the shortfall of 100,000 public houses in Queensland and NSW all require skilled people. "If we're talking in the tens of thousands of people needed in those basic and traditional areas, then we need bold strategies by government or industry," he says.

He says trade training was in decline before the global financial crisis put a strain on industry. And Queensland's recent natural disasters have compounded the problem, while many skilled workers in the resources and energy sector are being drawn to Papua New Guinea, which is experiencing significant growth.

"We've effectively lost a two year cohort because of the GFC and the floods," he says. "That's further exacerbating the skills shortage that will follow through the system like a black hole for the next four years. This program addresses some of that black hole."

Associated Iron and Steel project manager Nathan Kloboucek says his family-run business shrank by half in 2008, to just 12 workers, and they were unable to offer apprenticeships. They are now back to more than 30 staff, and putting Andlovec on as a mature-aged apprentice is part of the company's rebuild.

But the firm cannot expand fast enough to meet mining sector demand, and competition from China will be the greatest challenge in the next three years.

Wyborn says employers need to be visionary in their dedication to training apprentices, seeing it as an investment in their industry. "What we have to move away from is this idea of just constantly waiting for someone to put an apprentice on then taking them into your business," he says. "Industry needs to make the decision to train apprentices."

He says employers and mature aged apprentices can access up to $13,000 in assistance in the first few years of an apprenticeship to compensate for any drop in pay.

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Sarina Russo Job Access

Sarina Russo is an industry leader in education, training, recruitment and job creation. Free recruitment service for jobseekers and employers specialising in finding work for the long-term unemployed, parents, people with a disability, the mature aged and people from non-English speaking backgrounds.
Mr. Brenden Brien
P: 07 3001 8063


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