Ignoring the use-by date
Older workers talk trades –
Life experience is helping a new age of apprentices and trainees meet the state’s skilled-worker shortage, reports
MATURE-AGE workers looking for a career change are being encouraged to undertake apprenticeships so they will be job-ready when the next skills shortage occurs.
Troy Williams, chief executive of not-for-profit apprenticeship provider Skill360, says the economic downturn has given mature-age workers the chance to reconsider career options and re-train for the next phase of their working life.
‘‘We are encouraging older workers to look at what they would like to be doing in three or four years’ time and get started today,’’ Mr Williams says.
‘‘They will be completing their qualifications just as the economic recovery will be fully under way and Australia will likely be facing another skills shortage.’’
Mature-age apprentices are defined as being at least 30 years old, as opposed to a mature-age ‘‘worker’’ who is 45 years or older.
National Centre for Vocational Education Research figures show 4200 of South Australia’s 32,000 people in training are 45 years or older.
About 10,000 people in training are aged between 25 and 44 years.
Mr Williams says there is a wide variety of apprenticeships available for those seeking a new career path.
‘‘There is a perception that apprenticeships are all about manual trades. However, there are also traineeships in areas as diverse as office administration, project management, finance and computing,’’ he says.
‘‘There are about 500 training courses that lead to an apprenticeship or traineeship so the opportunities for mature-age workers are limitless.’’
Ashley Manuel, 34, spent 13 years in the retail industry before starting a plumbing apprenticeship with Hindmarsh Plumbing this year.
‘‘Getting a bit older, I was starting to think about the future and where retail was leading me and it wasn’t where I wanted to be,’’ he says.
‘‘So, for me, it was a no-brainer. I’m having a ball. I wish I had done it five or 10 years ago.’’
With on-site bonuses, Mr Manuel already earns more as a first-year apprentice than he did in retail.
Hindmarsh Plumbing construction general manager Rob Pavan says the extra wage costs are worth it. ‘‘We always get a better vibe from amatureage person: their maturity, their willingness to work, their acceptance to drop a significant amount of money on an apprentice wage . . . and they’re able to pick up the skills a lot quicker than the younger people,’’ he says.
He believes mature-age apprentices are more likely to last the duration of their training while many younger apprentices are keen to move on.
COTA Seniors Voice chief executive Ian Yates says age is no impediment to learning new skills.
‘‘We have the mythology that people have a use-by date, but I don’t see why anybody can’t retrain – there are people in their 80s who are studying at university,’’ he says.