Apprentice quit after receiving course bill

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 10:21 25/02/2013

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An Invercargill tradesman is concerned industries will face a shortage of qualified staff if high apprenticeship costs continue.

Lloyds Joinery managing director Lloyd Richardson said his apprentice quit last year after receiving a bill for course costs of $3926.50, almost four times what he had been expecting.

The equivalent costs for the company's previous apprentice had been about $600, but he had completed a pre-trade course which reduced his fees from about $1000, Mr Richardson said.

While he knew when hiring the apprentice there would be a fees increase, he said the nearly 400 per cent jump was unprecedented and had pushed his apprentice to terminate the apprenticeship.

The man had been kept on at the company as a labourer and was still receiving training, but would now lack a formal qualification, he said.

"He's a good man, that's why he's still here. But to us it doesn't make a lot of sense. He would be much better in an apprenticeship. The fact is his future's not as bright."

Mr Richardson believed more young people would be dissuaded from pursuing qualifications if costs were not lowered, leaving the industry with a dearth of qualified workers in the future.

The Joinery Industry Training Organisation (JITO) administered the apprenticeship qualification costs, which covered credit fees, training management fees, and distance learning workbooks and assessment.

Mr Richardson understood fees had increased because JITO had been subsidising costs from its reserves, but stopped when this became unaffordable.

Trades funding had increased leading into the Christchurch rebuild, but the money was funnelled into tertiary education instead of subsidising costs for JITO, apprentices, and employers who created the jobs, he said.

"Things are tough. The Government needs to make it easier on [employers] and, obviously, make it attractive to the apprentice . . . and the only way they're going to do that is keeping the prices down."

Last year, SIT received $1.3 million of government funding for trade courses under the Skills for Canterbury scheme.

Mr Richardson acknowledged the Government had taken a step in the right direction, offering $2000 for an apprentice's tools and training and $2000 for employers to offset apprenticeship costs for 10,000 people in January, but this was only a small beginning.

Nationally, there was still too much emphasis on "trapping" people in courses, instead of encouraging them to gain qualifications while earning in the workforce, he said.

He had written to Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce to express his concerns, he said.

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JITO chief executive Deb Paul said the industry was aware of the need to attract apprentices and there were several government schemes slated to increase apprenticeship funding this year.

She confirmed the organisation had been subsidising apprenticeship fees and stopped because the costs became unsustainable.

While she understood where Mr Richardson was coming from regarding polytechnic courses, she said sometimes there were not enough apprenticeship spots so trade courses were the only option for students.

- The Southland Times

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