Fears over apprentice on-the-job training

Apprentices have sounded the alarm over a proposal to remove requirements for on-the-job training as a mandatory part of trade qualifications.

The Australian Industry Skills Committee has asked its manufacturing advisory arm to abandon the need for a set amount of hours in the workplace.

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union national secretary Steve Murphy says the changes could mean apprentices wouldn’t touch a tool in workplaces.

“Apprenticeships as we know it are under attack,” he told AAP on Wednesday.

Mr Murphy said a 17-year-old second-year apprentice in NSW was instructed to weld steel without being shown to wear a mask.

“The young fella is now blind,” he said.

“This is the kind of example where if you don’t have a skilled tradesperson working with a young worker, we’re going to see more and more young lives damaged.”

The new AMWU secretary said he learnt crucial skills as an apprentice and fears for the future of young people if the plan goes ahead.

He’s concerned private training providers are informing the decision after seeing an opportunity to make big profits pumping out graduates regardless of career prospects.

“We need to keep apprentices on the tools,” Mr Murphy said.

Training organisations have objected to counting workplace training hours and want to be able to provide trade credentials to international students without apprenticeships.

Cassidy Bio, 30, is a second-year boiler maker apprentice in Newcastle who is concerned about job prospects without on-the-job training.

“Who is going to hire tradespeople who don’t have workplace experience?” he said.

“I don’t think anyone would go to a doctor who had never operated on or treated a patient. It’s the same with trades. This proposal devalues what we do.”

Third-year apprentice fitter and turner Isabelle Booth said on-the-job training taught tips and tricks that TAFE couldn’t.

“It’s all about safety and getting the site experience needed to safely do the job,” the 20-year-old said.

“We’re working with cranes and an overhead monorail, we’re also working with gases and hazardous substances – this is not something you can simply learn at TAFE, you need to be on site.”

Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said workplace requirements were an important element of a competency-based training system.

“The AISC is not looking to remove on-the-job learning from apprenticeships or diminish workplace practice in the delivery of vocational education and training,” she told AAP.

She said the majority of manufacturing and engineering trade qualifications were apprenticeships which must be undertaken in a workplace.

It’s understood the government is weighing up options to provide more flexible arrangements for students to engage more in apprenticeships.

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