Gen Y aren’t all to blame Apprentices struggle at TAFE

THE NUMBER of apprentices becoming tradies is falling, but there's more to it than Gen Y laziness, says a Seelands man training to be a plumber.

According to Federal Government figures in 2011 there were 443,833 apprentices undergoing their training. Today there are only 316,000.

A report on national radio said many bosses put this down to Gen Y being too lazy to follow through with their training, but 30-year-old second year plumbing apprentice Peter Quiring says there is more to it.

He's not your usual apprentice. For a start he's two years into his second apprenticeship after gaining his ticket as a roof tiler

And at 30 he's acquired enough life experience to realise an apprenticeship will give him the skills to improve his future.

But mixing with a lot of young people in their teens and early 20s while at TAFE has given him an insight into their motivation - or lack of it.

"A lot of them don't realise how hard it's going to be," Mr Quiring said.

"With plumbing there's a lot of things to learn and they really struggle with the TAFE work they need to do.

"They don't understand there's a lot of things you can't learn while you're at work."

But Mr Quiring said some modern bosses needed to change how they treated their apprentices.

"Old school bosses remember the way they were treated as apprentices and treat theirs the same way," he said.

"To young people that sort of treatment is the same as harassment they hear about all the time.

"As an apprentice I am the one who has to crawl through the mud under the house or dig a trench with a shovel.

"But someone has to do it and it's better the least experienced person does it."

In addition to feeling harassed, Mr Quiring said a lot of apprentices believed their bosses were exploiting them.

"They're always complaining at TAFE that their bosses are making a fortune off them," he said.

"Actually it's not the case. Last week my boss sat down with me and discussed what it cost him to train an apprentice.

"With all the time we're away at courses he's lucky to break even.

"I think the boss needs to sit down with their apprentices and explain all this to them."

Uncertainty about your future as a tradie also saps the confidence of apprentices.

"It's not just the low wages, but the uncertainty about their work that makes people anxious," he said.

"When there's no work about, the boss gets rid of the person who's of least use and that's the apprentice. "I had to switch employers three times while I was doing my first apprenticeship. It makes it hard to have confidence in what you're doing."

Apprenticeships are a great for a young person to get a start in life says Yamba boilermaker Brayden Hockings. He recommended starting an apprenticeship as young as possible.

"I started my apprenticeship once I finished Year 10 and by the time my friends had finished Year 12, I was already halfway through my apprenticeship," he said.

"It's like I was a couple of years ahead because a lot of them then started trades anyway.

"I think people who don't want to go on to do uni, and want to get a trade, should do it as early as they can so that when they want to move out of home or whatever, they are earning enough to do so."

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