Let’s focus on keeping the apprentices we have

staceyAs Membership Chair of QLD National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and General Manager of a residential building company I’m an avid promoter of bringing new blood into the construction trade.  With the downturn of the industry last year and the slow climb out, it’s not surprising young people are concerned about a future in the trades.

It’s hard to convince high school students to get into a trade apprenticeship because we can’t promise there’s a job out there for them at the end of their training.  I am currently helping two girls – one on the Sunshine Coast and one on the Gold Coast who have their heart set on being a carpenter (I told them bricklaying is better!).

Luckily as all our homes are built on the Gold Coast my carpenters have taken on one of the girls. However, Sunshine Coast is proving a lot harder with the lack of work currently in the area.

Now, during the downturn, is actually the perfect time to take on apprentices – the time is there to concentrate on giving them quality training time and preparing them for the next boom.   It makes good business sense.

However, the last eight months I have had countless calls from experienced tradies looking for work. The calls haven’t seemed to have slowed down – I’ve had five bricklayers ring me in the last 4 days, (mid March).  Many callers are subcontractors who have apprentices working for them and want work to keep the apprentices going.  Their focus is rightly placed on retaining the apprentices they have.

As an industry during these times I believe we need to do what sub-contractors are doing – focus on retaining the apprentices in the system already.  We have a precious resource in the apprentice, especially as experienced bricklayers start to retire.

Until the residential industry ramps up again we need to focus on keeping our apprentices going so we don’t lose them forever. Whilst I know some construction companies are seriously impacted by the downturn I believe that we will feel it more if we don’t do something now to retain our apprentices.

With all of my staff over the years in the office, as part of their training they had to spend time out on site with the Senior Supervisors. This helped them gain a better understanding of what they do in the office and how it can affect those out on site.

This is something we should be getting our apprentices to do… get them into the construction offices during the downturn to learn how the office runs and the amount of hard work that goes on within. By doing so it also opens up the idea of future career options for the apprentices – check out the success stories of bricklayers and what they have gone on to achieve in the Become a Bricklayer – About Bricklaying tab.

As this website says, ‘having an apprentice makes good sense’ both now and in our future.

Stacey Rimene
General Manager
BBC Homes


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