The Importance of Training Apprentices for Future Growth

Why our lack of apprentices could land the NT in hot water

As many of us are aware, the NT has a historical record of boom and bust cycles, and at the moment, we’re seeing some industry sectors tipping toward the latter.

After the amazing highs of the previous few years, especially in the construction sector, this drop off is quite noticeable.

What’s happening with apprenticeships?

Mirroring this downturn in economic activity is the number of young people starting apprenticeships.

To date, in 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, there has been a noticeable decrease in apprenticeship commencements in traditional trades.

Alarmingly, research from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) shows that nationally trade apprenticeship commencements in the 15 – 24 year old cohort are at their lowest level since 2002.

Let’s look at three examples of very popular traditional apprenticeships which have suffered over the past years.

Certificate III in Electrotechnology

This is one of the most popular and demanding traditional apprenticeships available. Several hundred apprentices are under a Contract of Training in the NT at any one time. Between 2016 and 2017 there has actually been an increase in commencements in this apprenticeship, however, numbers are still down on previous years.

Certificate III in Carpentry

This is another very popular traditional apprenticeship, but with the decline in residential construction there has also been a decline in apprenticeship commencements. No cranes on the skyline means fewer apprentices on the job.

Certificate III in Plumbing

This is a long standing traditional trade apprenticeship, which is an essential component of the construction sector both domestic and commercial. Again, we can see a drop off in commencements in 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.

How has industry demand changed?

Two or three years ago, these trades were in shortage, with employers almost pulling their hair out trying to find skilled workers. However, two or three years ago Darwin’s skyline was filled with tower cranes. Today, the construction sector is a lot quieter compared to those boom times of a few years ago.

Why we need to focus on training now to avoid a shortfall in 5 years

Historically, when there is an economic downturn, the first thing that suffers is training. When the work starts to become scarce then apprentices are often seen as a luxury, a luxury which many employers see as being unaffordable.

The outcome of this drop off in training is a skill shortage when the good times return. Those same employers who turn may their back on employing an apprentice today, could easily be poaching a tradesman in 5 years’ time.

It is imperative that to alleviate the effects of future skills shortages, employers recognise the importance of employing an apprentice today.

How can ISACNT help you employ an apprentice?

ISACNT are a resource which employers can call on to make it as smooth as possible to employ an apprentice.

We can assist by determining the most suitable apprenticeship for a business, where the apprentice can be trained and in some cases even pre-assess a potential apprentice’s suitability for an apprenticeship.

With our local connections with ISACNT’s Industry Advisory Group and national connections to Industry Reference Groups, Technical Advisory Committees, and Skills Service Organisations, we are in a great position to influence the development of apprenticeship qualifications so that these qualifications meet the needs of Territory businesses both now and in the future.