The Hunter Valley is in the grip of an apprenticeship shortage

SHORTAGE: Hunter Valley Training Company CEO Sharon Smith said apprentice numbers have dropped significantly.
SHORTAGE: Hunter Valley Training Company CEO Sharon Smith said apprentice numbers have dropped significantly.

The Hunter is in the grip of an apprenticeship shortage with Hunter Valley Training Company (HVTC) reporting they had experienced a 40 per cent decline in numbers in line with the national trends.

HVTC CEO Sharon Smith said enrolments have dropped over the past four years since  2012 with the end of the mining construction boom which had a flow on effect to mining support industries across the region.

HVTC’s customers in the mining industry dropped from 200 to 40.

Another significant contributor was the removal of some Federal Government programs such as the abolition of an apprentice tool allowance which was replaced with a loan program resulting in red tape and a lot of confusion.

Ms Smith said implementation of Smart and Skilled programme including  increases in TAFE fees in 2013 also caused industry concern.

“There is a strong community focus in schools and among parents to  keep their children in the classroom with  aspirations to go to university,” Ms Smith said.

“Universities have dropped their entrance scores for many courses due to demand and those students who would have been great candidates for apprenticeships and are now choosing a university pathway. We have seen many school leavers going to university and then dropping out six months later because they found uni wasn’t for them.”

Fairfax Media recently reported that parents and teachers are discouraging young people from entering apprenticeships despite 85.5 per cent of apprentices getting full-time jobs six months after completing their training. That rate compares with 68 per cent of university graduates who find work within six months.

“HVTC has secured funding to run vocational programs at no cost to participants in a bid to get businesses and apprentices on board. We would encourage school leavers and job seekers to participate in these courses to gain entry level job ready  skills. HVTC actively looks for ongoing apprenticeships for those who complete this training,” Ms Smith said.

On a national level the Business Council of Australia, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australian Industry Group said the number of apprentices and trainees in Australia almost halved between June 2012 and June 2016. About 299,000 people were in vocational training in 2012. That figure dropped to 106,000 last June, according to figures from the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research.

“In the Hunter there are more young people looking for work than there are jobs. There will soon be trade shortages right across the board particularly in the mechanical engineering/fabrication and construction sectors for example.”

In the Hunter there are more young people looking for work than there are jobs.

HVTC CEO Sharon Smith.

Ms Smith believes we are about to turn a corner. “Things have plateaued. It’s not getting any worse and now there are signs there that herald improvement. Locally there has been an increase in apprenticeships and traineeships in the services industries like aged care, youth work and business admin.

“HVTC was awarded the lead role as Apprentice Provider for a major infrastructure project as  part of the NSW Government Infrastructure Skills Legacy Project. This will target up to 500 apprentices and trainees over the life of the project.”