TRADE UP TO A SOLID PROSPECT
Don’t knock a trade ’til you try it, Melanie Burgess writes
PERSISTENT: It was a case of third time lucky for heavy vehicle mechanic Christopher Knight when it came to getting an apprenticeship. Picture: TONY PHILLIPS PHOTOGRAPHY
MORE Australians are understanding the appeal of a trade career, with increasing numbers pursuing these lines of work. Almost 75,000 people commenced a trade apprenticeship in the 12 months to March 31 – up 4.2 per cent on the previous year, new data from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research reveals.
The increase was particularly strong in Tasmania, where commencements were up 20 per cent, as well as in Western Australia (9.9 per cent), South Australia and New South Wales (each 8.5 per cent).
Renewed popularity of trade careers may be the result of strong employment forecasts for many jobs.
By 2023, Federal Government data predicts the need for an extra 28,300 food trade workers (up 14.2 per cent), 25,800 construction trade workers (up 6.5 per cent) and 17,800 engineering, ICT (information and communication technology) and science technicians (up 7.1 per cent).
NECA chief executive Suresh Manickam says he is pleased the misconception that trades are a poor career choice is shifting.
“This has damaged the prospects of young people as well as the wider economy,” he says. “We have seen too many people coming out of university with worthless degrees or an oversupply of certain skills, such as law, where there are far more graduates than opportunities in the legal profession.”
SEEK salary data reveals many trades pay more than office jobs, too. Ads for electricians and airconditioning and refrigeration technicians, for example, offer an average salary of $78,391 and $77,380 on SEEK, respectively.
This is more than the average bank worker ($72,400), journalist ($69,133) or paralegal ($67,225).
Bernadette Reynolds, talent and culture manager at Pullman Cairns International, says she hopes the next generation understands how many great careers do not require a university degree.
“For chefs there is so much opportunity out there to be creative, to travel and to move into more senior roles,” she says.
“You never know where you will end up – we have lots of trade-qualified chefs who are now general managers of hotels.”
Heavy vehicle mechanic Christopher Knight is a finalist in the Australian Training Awards after being named a state apprentice of the year.
He did a Certificate II in Logistics before pursuing an apprenticeship, but was initially knocked back. “After three times, I ended up getting a job,” he says.
Knight advises anyone considering a trade that “you have nothing to lose and everything to gain”.
He says he is “loving every step” of working on access equipment, including forklifts. “The feeling you get when you fix something – you can’t really describe it.”