Alarm bells over drop in apprentice numbers

PLUMMETING apprentice numbers in Tasmania’s construction sector are ringing alarm bells about the future for growth in the state.

The industry’s key training organisation and a major builder have both expressed concern about where Tasmania building sector is headed after apprentice numbers dropped by 19 per cent in one year.

Vos Construction general manager Phil Matthews said a downturn like much of Tasmania was facing forced many employers to look at their numbers.

“Ourselves and some other majors don’t drop numbers, because through previous experience we have learned that it hurts you when you reach a period of growth,” Mr Matthews said.

He said Vos had bitten the bullet and continued to employ apprentices at its regular levels, but he feared sometimes they would not receive the variety of work which would keep them engaged.

Taking home the trophy for Builder of the Year, Commercial, General manager of VOS Construction and Joinery Phil Matthews.

“But the real drop in numbers comes in the mid to small builders who don’t have the resources to carry numbers,” he said.

Mr Matthews highlighted a huge gap between the southern region, and the North and North-West.

“The shining light in the North-West is the Living City development, and everyone needs to get behind that and make sure it gets started.”

The Tasmanian Building and Construction Industry Training Board has highlighted the need for major projects to stimulate an increase in numbers as a major issue.

It’s recent report into the business activity and training in the Tasmanian construction industry highlights the continued decline in apprentice numbers, as well as a 15 per cent non-completion rate for apprentices – many due to retrenchment or business failure.

“Industry’s capacity to train is directly linked to the availability of building and construction work,” said chairperson Tracy Matthews.

“The recent state of the industry has meant that apprenticeships, the highest priority entry point to industry, have continued to decline and the rate of non-completion has increased.”

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