According to the State Government's Construction Training Fund, the number of people starting an apprenticeship in construction in Western Australia fell by 25 per cent over 2015/16. Concreting apprenticeships were the worst hit, however, falling 83 per cent, while bricklaying was down 56 per cent.
A number of organisations have urged the state government to take measures to arrest the slide and boost training numbers. These include the Housing Industry Association, UnionsWA and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).
Mick Buchan, CFMEU state secretary, pointed out that Western Australia has one of the lowest apprenticeship rates in the country in the wake of a $120 million reduction in the state government's training budget in the last three years, as well as another $50 million that was recently cut from the federal government's training budget.
“Training our young people with the skills that they need in the future should be a priority of government, yet the WA Government has sat on its hands while young Western Australians have been hit hard by the post-boom downturn,” said Buchan.
Youth unemployment in Western Australia stands at 11.4 per cent.
“WA is facing a worsening of the current youth jobless crisis and a future skills shortage if we don’t act now,” Buchan added.
“We need to plan for our future. Loose laws that allow industry to turn overseas labour on and off like a tap should not be used as a substitute for training young West Australians.”
Other apprenticeships to suffer significant reductions include plastering, plumbing, tiling, carpentry and joinery and electrical. Some apprenticeships actually enjoyed an upturn, including wall and ceiling fixing, painting and decorating and roof plumbing.
Western Australia could be facing a serious skills shortage over the coming decade, with stark figures revealing that the number of new apprenticeships in certain fields has fallen by more than 80 per cent, one of the sharpest annual drop-offs in history.