Attracting young people to construction apprenticeships

As the construction industry continues to face labour and skills shortages, Empowered Women in Trades’ Head of Programs Melinda Davis shares how investing in youth and attracting young people to apprenticeships could be the solution.

Attracting young people to apprenticeships in industries like construction is a hot topic of conversation wherever the Empowered Women in Trades (EWIT) team go. The construction industry is desperate for young people wanting to undertake apprenticeships. Employers are keen to share their knowledge and invest in providing future generations the opportunity to learn a skilled trade. We are constantly being asked why young people lack the enthusiasm or desire to enter a trade role.

The short answer – the apprenticeship system is broken.

Backed up by a recent report released by the National Youth Commission of Australia, Apprenticeships and traineeships – delivering on potential, it is clear major changes are needed to increase enrolments and retention. In 2022, the apprenticeship system began receiving significant attention through the Australian Skills Guarantee consultation process and changes need to be made. Our skilled trades are crying out for support with a 5.8 per cent increase in jobs expected in the construction sector by November 2026, according to the Employment outlook report by the National Skills Commission.

So, what is the solution?

Strengthening career support for youth

Provide youth with insight, understanding and the human skills needed to thrive in an apprenticeship from start to finish. NCVER’s Completion and attrition rates for apprentices and trainees 2020 report shows that only 56.1 per cent of all apprentices and trainees that commenced training in 2016 went through to completion. In skilled trades specific roles, that number reduced to 55.1 per cent. To lose so many, you need to question how the career decision was made in the first place.

It is easy to blame a system – the apprenticeship system or the school system. It can always be better. What we really need to remember is that these systems are just two cogs in the wheel. No matter how good the system is, it will never be all we need to make the shift back to attracting young people towards apprenticeships and traineeships, specifically skilled trades in industries like construction. Current unemployment rates sit at 3.4 per cent nationally, however youth unemployment continues to buck trends and is sitting at 7.7 per cent nationally.

This article originally appeared on Inside Construction.

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