Union sparks war of words over government’s apprentice support services choice

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
3 Min Read

The Electrical Trades Union has slammed some of the Federal Government’s choice of apprentice support services providers in the wake of declining apprenticeship numbers. 

Last week, the government announced it would be sticking with many of its currently contracted Australian Apprenticeship Support Network providers as part of the program’s redevelopment commencing July 1. 

The support service was designed to help boost trade-wide apprenticeship numbers, which have fallen significantly in recent years, placing infrastructure projects, housing targets and nationwide construction under significant threat. 

With a forecast shortage of 32,000 electricians by 2030, a vast drop in commencements, and female participation stubbornly low, the Federal Government hopes the programs will help students most at risk of apprenticeship drop out go on to have a successful career in the field. 

However, with apprenticeship numbers declining during the previous providers’ tenure, the ETU has questioned their re-selection as a support service. 

“Unfortunately, apprentice numbers have fallen while the companies chosen to deliver this program had funding, so it’s difficult to fathom why they have been reappointed,”  ETU national secretary Michael Wright said. 

“This all points to the need for a serious overhaul and a robust plan. We can’t expect things to improve if we keep using the same formula.”

Mr Wright says the government needs to develop a detailed plan to reverse the worrying apprenticeship trend, which could impact both the nation’s clean energy transition and ability to rectify the ongoing housing crisis. 

“The government’s Australian Apprenticeship Support Services program and commitment to drive up apprenticeship completions will face serious hurdles without a clear strategy to reverse years of failure in apprentice retention,” he said. 

“…it’s incumbent on the federal government and these support providers to set out exactly how they are going to reverse years of declining apprenticeship commencements and completions and lift female involvement.”  

Mas National, part of the IntoWork Group, was one of the providers selected to deliver the Australian Government’s revamped Australian Apprenticeship Support Services (AASS) across five states and territories from July.

IntoWork Group CEO Poul Bottern said Mas had previously demonstrated its expertise in improving apprenticeship numbers for the federal government. 

 “It’s an exciting time in the apprenticeship sector, with an increased focus on improving completion rates, diversity of the apprenticeship workforce and greater wraparound support – areas that Mas has demonstrated expertise in,” he said.  

Mas National CEO John Glass said the organisation had the experience of supporting hundreds of thousands of apprentices and employers in previous years.

“We’re excited to be part of this new, enhanced service and further strengthen this vital career pathway,” he said. 

The Australian Apprenticeship Support Services (AASS) commence on 1 July 2024 and replace the current Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN).

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.

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