Ig­nor­ing the use-by date

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Older work­ers talk trades –

Life ex­pe­ri­ence is help­ing a new age of ap­pren­tices and trainees meet the state’s skilled-worker short­age, re­ports

Lau­ren Ah­wan.

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.

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