Boom blamed for ditching trade

New figures show WA apprentices and trainees are dropping out of their training, causing concern that the skills shortage facing the mining industry will only worsen.

Figures show that 10,816 apprenticeships and traineeships were abandoned in the year to June. Department of Training and Workforce Development figures show this was up from 8208 cancellations in 2009-10, The West Australian reported.

Frank Allen, WA Group Training Scheme chief, says that low pay was one of the main factors of the exodus.

"Who would want to come in on $400-500 a week as an apprentice, having to buy tools, when you could go to the mines and pick up $100,000 a year," he said.

"The mining industry should contribute in times like these. They take all the skilled tradesmen to build mine sites and should inject something back into society and train the younger generations."

"We're not going to have any tradesmen left if the Federal Government doesn't open its mind and look for a solution," he said.

WA Training Minister Murray Cowper said the cancellations should not be viewed in isolation as there may be other factors at play.

"A cancellation of an apprenticeship can be the result of a wide range of factors, including commencing an alternative apprenticeship or finding other employment," he said. "With the second highest rate of completions in the nation, we not only offer quality courses but some of the best employment opportunities in the country."

However, others had a less optimistic view of training in WA.

Unions WA president Meredith Hammat also pointed to low pay and the fall in the standard of training in WA as the reason for people leaving.

"We're seeing a real dumbing down of our technical and trade skills and that is not good for the long term," she said.

The skills shortage facing the mining sector has been an issue for some years now as the number of skilled jobs in the country outweighs the people qualified to do them.

In a controversial move, many companies are now looking to foreign workers to fill in the shortage gaps.

In May, Ambit Engineering Recruitment CEO Peter Acheson said that as "Western Australia’s local skills base becomes fully stretched, companies will need to draw on the international skills pool – as well as participating in programs for developing the local skills base – to ensure they’re able to keep up as demand for skilled resources sector workers peaks over the next three to five years".

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