Construction Apprenticeships: Building A Career Construction

Source: WorkSafe Queensland

Construction is booming across Australia and apartment approvals for this year are already at an all time high, but the number of apprentices entering the construction industry and completing their apprenticeship training is at an all time low, a problem that could hamper the progress of the sector.

According to the Apprentices and Trainees 2014 Annual Report by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), apprenticeship and traineeship commencements have declined, by 21.9 per cent from 2013 to 2014. Non-trade commencements dropped by 25.3 per cent in the same period.  Read more about the dilemma facing the industry here.


Treatment of Apprentices to be Inspected


The treatment of apprentices will take centre stage when the Fair Work Ombudsman begins its crackdown on employers payment and treatment of these workers soon.

In the past Fair Work has noticed that 400,000 apprentices begin apprenticeships but only half of these complete their training, possibly due to unfair treatment of wage issues.

Employers need to ensure apprentices are being fairly treated, properly compensated for work and adequately trained including receiving White Card training.

Read more here.

Could Safety Concerns be Putting of New Workers to the Construction Industry?

An article on the website highlighted concerns about a future skills shortage in the construction sector if apprentice numbers continue to decline as they have been doing since 2010.

Although there has been a downturn in the building and construction activity throughout Australia, the industry’s activity is expected to pick up especially towards the middle of the decade and skills shortages are likely if apprentice numbers continue to decline.

There is a fear that a generation of young people will fall victim to economic circumstances and government policies that make getting a job harder especially for apprentice workers who are devoid of experience and skills.

According to the article’s author, despite weak economic conditions outside the resource sector overall, declines in apprentice numbers in the construction sector has not been replicated in other areas of the economy.

According to final full year statistics from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, just 16,585 new apprentices signed up on construction sites which was a drop of 12 per cent since 2011 and almost one third less than in 2010.

Read what the article went on to discuss:

Construction-Apprenticeships-HappyOver that same period, the total number of apprentices in training throughout the industry has dropped from 55,383 to 46,323.

The latest data comes amid increasing reports of soft demand for tradespeople throughout Australia amid weak building conditions.

In the residential sector, for instance, the most recent HIA Trades Report revealed that 10 out of 13 trades are in oversupply, with site preparation, plumbing and electrical being the worst hit areas.

A further Master Builders Australia survey revealed an extreme oversupply of scaffolders, building consultants, labourers, painters, roof tilers and electricians.

The data also reinforces fears of a looming shortage of skilled labour toward the middle of the decade as building activity picks up.

Master Builders Australia chief executive officer Willhelm Harnisch says the decline in apprenticeship rates highlights the need for urgent action to bolster the economy, cut red tape, boost apprenticeship support, reform industrial relations and restore incentives to take on apprentices.

He says unless apprenticeship intake rates improve, the aforementioned potential labour shortfall could precipitate further construction delays and upward pressure on building costs.

“The Government’s Kickstart apprenticeship bonus and other initiatives are welcome, but have been unable to cushion the new apprentice intake from poor trading conditions,” he says.

Read more:

Encouraging young people to enter the construction sector would be made easier if they weren’t inundated by media reports about how bad the safety record is in the construction sector.  This year alone we have had a number of apprentice related accidents on construction sites and serious injuries and fatalities were the result.

In order to maintain safety among young and apprentice workers it is vital to ensure they are appropriately trained. That involves ensuring they are in possession of a white card before allowing them onto a construction site and then training them on site specific safety (such as emergency response procedures etc.). Another crucial aspect of apprentice safety is ensuring that they are adequately supervised, especially while engaging in high risk work. Certain trades require a special high risk licence and apprentices engaged in these activities must also obtain this certificate.


Building Site Apprentice critical after worksite fall

Source : GilbertoFilho

Another shocking incident occurred on a Canberra building site which has left a young worker critical in hospital after sustaining a fall. The worker, a 20 year old apprentice, fell five meters causing him to sustain serious head injuries.

The apprentice was conducting maintenance on a garage roller door on Wednesday afternoon last week when he received an electric shock causing him to fall off the ladder 5m to the ground.

The incident has highlighted the need for greater safety on Canberra building sites following the inquiry by the ACT government into safety in the industry. This is the fourth incident of this nature to occur on a building site in the ACT since December last year and has caused the site to be shut down by WorkSafe.

This report on details the incident:

The man was working for a company contracted by the ACT Government to carry out maintenance on the site at the old bus depot on Dundas Street in Phillip.

The site is being leased by a car detailing company.

WorkSafe ACT has shut down the work site.

The accident happened just hours after the construction union staged a rally in Civic calling on the ACT Government to improve worker safety on construction sites.

Police and WorkSafe ACT are investigating.

Work safety commissioner Mark McCabe says it is an extremely serious incident.

“Some people have said to me ‘will it become more serious if the condition of the worker worsens?’,” he said.

“It will from a human point of view. From our point of view it’s a serious incident already. It could very easily have led to a much worse circumstance than it is as the moment. It’s up there with the highest of incidents.”

The Electrical Trades Union is seeking more details about the accident.

Spokesman Neville Betts says the union wants to know whether the apprentice was properly supervised.


There are 2 major safety issues that this incident highlights. The first is the need for greater safety when working from heights, on ladders, scaffolds, roofs etc. The second issue is the need for inexperienced workers to be supervised, especially when undertaking dangerous task such as work from heights.

Supervisors need to keep an extra eye on inexperienced workers such as apprentices until the complete their training.

Workers undertaking work from ladders should always follow these safety guidelines to minimise risk of falling or injury:

  • Always face the ladder when going up or down.
  • You should stand on a rung that is at least 900mm from the top of a single or extension ladder.
  • Always stand on or below the second rung below the top plate of any stepladder.
  • When hoisting tools to the top in bucket once you have climbed to the top and not carried in your hands
  • Both hands should be kept on the ladder at all times
  • Make sure the ladder is properly secured before climbing
  • Another important factor is that ladders are properly maintained and should have no missing rungs etc.

When undertaking electrical work, extra fall protection should be used to prevent an incident of this nature occurring.