Submission to the Apprenticeships for the 21St Century Expert Panel

Submission to the Apprenticeships for the 21St Century Expert Panel



Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations


Apprenticeships for the 21st Century Expert Panel Paper

January 2011

Submitter:Paul Daly

Organisation:Master Electricians

Address:PO Box 2438 Fortitude Valley BC Qld 4006

Phone:(07) 3251 2444



  1. Master Electricians (ME) is the peak industry body for contractors who operate in the electrical, data, communications and fire sector of the Building and Construction and domestic services industry in Australia. ME membership is over 2, 500(with approximately 85% defined as constitutional corporations) and is as diverse as the industry it represents, ranging from many small “Mum and Dad” businesses that employ only one or two people, right up to large multi national companies who employ more than 1,500 electricians.
  2. This vast differential in size and demographic coupled with a need to stay competitive across a wide range of worksites has lead many of ME’s members to fully embrace education and training in all its forms.
  3. ME’s parent company, the Electrical and Communications Association, is a Registered Training Organisation andhas been involved in Education and Training for the industry as a whole and our core membership for many years. This has been from entry level Blue Card (prior to White Card) training right up to Diploma level qualifications. More recently Master Electricians saw a specific need within our membership to develop a program of employer and employee mentoring and pastoral care within the apprenticeship and traineeship system to encourage a successful completion outcome.
  4. While all qualifications have their idiosyncrasies, the Electrical Training Package presents a more challenging pathway than many other trades.As such, in 2007 ME implemented the ApprenticeConnect service. ApprenticeConnect is essentially an employer and employee mentoring program that was designed to make the navigation of the VETE industry for both employer and employee much easier with a central point of contact for the entirety of the apprenticeship or traineeship. Commencing with just five members, ApprenticeConnect now has over 230 apprentices and their employers undertaking the fee for service program.
  5. Many of the employer members use ApprenticeConnect exclusively rather than employ a specific staff member to manage their education and training needs.
  6. With an annual growth rate of 70%, ApprenticeConnect is meeting a very real need that industry has. This core need is essentially apprentice administration management and mentoring for both the employer and apprentice or trainee. The services are tailored to suit each individual business and include the following:
  • Recruitment and selection
  • Induction
  • Facilitation of the sign up requirements with:
  • Australian Apprenticeship Centre
  • Registered Training Organisation
  • eProfiling (off the job training record required for licensing)
  • Management of all incentives for both employer and apprentice
  • Mentoring and pastoral visits every 3-6 months to suit the requirements of each client. These visits can include:
  • Training progression both on and off the job
  • Maintenance of the training record
  • Dispute resolution, disciplinary action and changes to the training contract as required.
  • Also provided are services of temporary placements with other employers should the employer be unable to provide employment for a period of time or a permanent placement should the business be closing for whatever reason.
  • Implementation of a comprehensive Supervision Policy, Procedure and paperwork
  • All completion documentation including licensing applications.
  1. We feel that his program has given our member a competitive edge with their businesses. They are now longer spending valuable time with the administrative burden of having an apprentice and can concentrate on training the apprentice on the job in their business. If they have any concerns at any time they can contact their dedicated Field Officer who has experience with this diverse trade and can manage any requirements the employer may have.
  2. Now in its fourth year of operation, apprenticeships that are serviced by ApprenticeConnect boast a 76% completion rate.
  3. Me is appreciative of the opportunity to submit its views on the Final Report. We believe many of the recommendations that the expert panel have put forward are valuable for growth in all industries and appreciate the ability to provide feedback on specific recommendations that we believe will benefit the Electrical Industry as a whole.
  4. As such ME’s submission will not focus on the Final Report as a whole, but target specific recommendations which we believe we can make a contribution based on our experience in the training sector.

Recommendation 1:

Establish a National Custodian to oversee reform that will ensure Australia has a high quality Australian Apprenticeships system that:

  • Responds to the needs of the economy
  • Supports nationally consistent standards for employment and training of apprentices and trainees
  • Focuses on retention and completion of apprentices and trainees
  • Supports high quality skill development to ensure all apprentices and trainees have well rounded and highly respected skills required by the economy.

As a first step an independent taskforce should be established to work within the eight jurisdictions to align their systems and develop a framework and process for the establishment of the National Custodian. The taskforce would be led by an independent chair and have a representative for each state and territory government, a union and an employer group.

  1. Master Electricians fully supports the implementation of a National Custodian. As mentioned in our introduction, navigation of the apprenticeships system is a daunting and confusing process for all who are not employed within it.
  2. We have seen first hand the industry in all cycles of the economy and have assisted our members through the good and the not so good times. We are currently seeing a period of down turn that indicatively will get worse before it gets better and are putting processes in place to ensure members are informed about their options for employment of apprentices. These measures include constant reminders of the incentives available for businesses that employ, retain and recommence apprentices. We have ensured our members are aware of additional funds due to the recent natural disasters.
  3. Master Electricians provides secretarial service to, and Chairs the Electrical Apprenticeship Innovation Committee (Apprenticeship Industry Committee),where in Queensland regularly conducts free employer breakfast session to ensure Electrical Contractors are kept abreast of the current state of play in apprenticeships, its long term impact and what industry as a whole can do to mange the affect of the skill shortage in the short term.
  4. ME also provides a free service to members to advertise any out of trade apprentices to ensure recommencements occur in a short time frame; this is partnered with advice prior to cancellation of the employers’ options and ideally facilitation of a temporary transfer until the business recovers from financial distress.
  5. We celebrate the ideal of a nationally consistent standard for employment and training of apprentices. Since 2004 we have been constantly seeking clarification between Federal and State legislation concerning apprenticeships and at times the differences have had a significant impact on some members.
  6. Given our long commitment to the apprenticeship sector, and our level of experience and expertise in this field, ME suggest that we may be a valuable representative on the taskforce to assist with the development of the National Custodian as we represent over 2, 500 Electrical Contracting businesses nationally from small, medium and large corporations.

Recommendation 2:

Enhance the quality and effectiveness of the Australian Apprenticeships system by clarifying the roles and consolidating the number of stakeholders in the system, ensuring that services are provided by the most appropriate provider, duplication of service delivery is reduced and administrative processes are streamlined. The National Custodian would ultimately be tasked with this role and will require Australian and state and territory governments – in consultation with industry, unions and other key stakeholders – to work together. In the interim the independent taskforce would progress this work

  1. In following on from recommendation 1, again MEsupport the implementation of the National Custodian which we believe an integral part of their initial role will be to streamline the stakeholders on a national level.
  2. Not only will this provide state based employers’ ease of access to the apprenticeships system, it will also increase the workability for employers who operate in more than one State or Territory.
  3. ME suggests that an online system to access information, in the form of a database where the user can enter their particular requirements and the database can bring up the most appropriate facilitators for the end user to then further research may be an option to assist with streamlining and accessing the most appropriate stakeholders. Similar to the search engine on NTIS that allows the user to enter specific requirements before bringing up the most appropriate result.

Recommendation 3:

Establish a formal accreditation process for the pre-qualification and training of all employers of apprentices and trainees to ensure a nationally consistent minimum standard of high quality employment and training is provided. In addition establish and Excellence in Employment Scheme to recognize and reward those employers who have consistently demonstrated their commitment to excellence in training apprentices and trainees.

  1. Master Electricians does not support an accreditation process for employers of apprentices and trainees.
  2. Employers already face an arduous process when employing an apprentice and having to ‘pre-qualify’ will only place more barriers in the way and contribute to a worsening skill shortage in a volatile economy.
  3. Commencement numbers are already in a downward trend and we believe this will only contribute to the issue. Imposing a mandatory pre-qualification on employers will not only limit commencements but will result in a dramatic drop in the number of small and medium business who are able to employ an apprentice due to this restriction.
  4. We believe Recommendation 3 will only serve large corporations who have the resources to dedicate to this proposed system.
  5. ME support providing assistance to employers and apprentices in a mentoring scheme as mentioned in recommendation 4.

With regard to the implementation of an Excellence in Employment Scheme, MEdoes not support this initiative. The majority of businesses within the Electrical Industry are small businesses with five or less staff in total. We believe the proposed Excellence in Employment Scheme would not be of benefit tothese businesses that in simple terms do not have the capitol to invest in significant training reforms within their business and would in essence only reward those larger companies who have more opportunity to implement such programs.
Recommendation 4:

Establish structured support for employers to provide high quality employment and workforce development experiences for eligible apprentices and trainees. The focus of Australian Government support should be on assisting employers to provide high quality on-the-job and off-the-job training through support services such as mentoring and pastoral care.

  1. ME strongly supports this recommendation, and believes it to be long overdue.
  2. As mentioned in our introduction, ME saw the need to provide more comprehensive support for employers to enable them to provide high quality employment and training for apprentices and trainees.
  3. To achieve this ME developed and implemented its ApprenticeConnect Program is a fee for service product which in its fourth year has an average annual growth rate of 90% and a successful completion rate of 76%. The services provided are tailored for each employer and apprentice and are not limited to:
  • Recruitment and selection
  • Induction
  • Facilitation of the sign up requirements with:
  • Australian Apprenticeship Centre
  • Registered Training Organisation
  • eProfiling (off the job training record required for licensing)
  • Management of all incentives for both employer and apprentice
  • Mentoring and pastoralvisits every 3-6 months depending on the requirements of each client
  • Including dispute resolution, disciplinary action and changes to the training contract as needed.
  • Also provided are services of temporary placements with other employers should the employer be unable to provide employment for a period of time or a permanent placement should the business be closing for whatever reason.
  • Implementation of a comprehensive Supervision Policy, Procedure and paperwork
  • All completion documentation including licensing applications.
  1. This service allows the employer to employ an apprentice directly and focus on delivering quality on-the-job training.
  2. Initially developed only for Electrical Apprentices, we now also cater for entry level traineeships and traineeships for existing workers.
  3. We are in the process of planning to open our services to all industries due to our success thus far.
  4. ME believe the ApprenticeConnect program can be use as a ‘best practice’ model and implemented in any trade or traineeship area. As the Electrical Apprenticeship has many idiosyncrasies and the ApprenticeConnect program has been developed to cater to these specific needs, tailoring to other qualifications would be a very simplistic task.
  5. Implementing this recommendation across all trades and providing employers with support and guidance throughout the life of the apprenticeship would do away with the need to implement a pre qualification program as mentioned in Recommendation 3.
  6. ME also sees real value in reassessing the distribution of incentive funding currently offered to employers.
  7. Me has found through working closely with employers who utilize the services of ApprenticeConnect, that while they are appreciative of the $4,000 they receive for indenturing an apprentice, it is not the contributing factor for doing so.
  8. Employers would much prefer to receive assistance and support with the management of the apprenticeship.
  9. ME is strongly of the belief that the financial assistance currently handed out to employers would be much better spent and more greatly appreciated and would significantly increase the completion rates of apprentices if it were channeled into a program of apprenticeship management like that provided by the ApprenticeConnect service.

Recommendation 5:

Redirect current Australian Government employer incentives to provide structured support services to eligible apprentices and trainees and their employers in occupations that are priorities for the Australian economy. While a wide range of occupations should be training though apprenticeship and traineeship pathways, Australian Government support should focus on occupations that have tangible and enduring value for the economy – both in the traditional trades and the newer forms of apprenticeships and traineeships, such as community services, health services and information technology.

  1. ME fully support of the establishment of Eligible Apprenticeships and Traineeships. While these apprenticeships and traineeships are in need of funding to prevent any further fall out from skill shortages, we believe there are some occupations that do not require the full level of funding that they currently receive.
  2. MEsaw the need some years ago to prepare industry for future skills in need such as ‘green skills’. We believe this has assisted out members to meet the demands of their clients. We support the need to prepare for emerging industry and skills needs.

Recommendation 6:

Reinforce the need for shared responsibility for the Australian Apprenticeships system by establishing an Employer Contribution Scheme in which employer contributions will be matched by the Australian Government. Employers who meet defined benchmarks for training and support of eligible apprentices and trainees would have their contribution rebated, either in part or in full.

  1. MEdoes not support the implementation of an Employer Contribution Scheme (ECS).
  2. Electrotechnology employers already contribute substantially to the on and off the job training of apprentices and trainees.
  3. Should Recommendation 4 come to fruition, services such as ApprenticeConnect would become the norm and all employers would feel the effect of financial recompense for employing an apprentice.

Recommendation 7:

Facilitate a cooperative and flexible approach by governments and industry bodies to allow for the continuation of both training and employment of apprentices and trainees during periods of economic downturn. Early intervention should be a key element of this approach. Support for a range of measures to be in place until economic recovery occurs could include:

  • Reduction of work hours offset by additional training
  • Increased off-the-job training
  • Placement with other employers within the industry
  • Increased mentoring and support.
  1. Master Electricians believe Industry is already very skilled in providing support for times of economic down turn.
  2. In these times Industry (including ME) work together to provide support services such as:
  3. Temporary Transfers
  4. In these cases the apprentice remains in the employment of their legal employer and are simply ‘charged out’ to another employer who has an adequate amount of work to ‘host’ a temporary apprentice. The legal employer has a responsibility to ensure that the apprentice will be in a safe workplace, that there are adequate supervisionratios and that all parties are aware of the commencement and completion details of the transfer.
  5. Facilitation of Recommencements
  6. In cases where the employer feels that they are not able to recover from financial distress, or have lost trades people and are not longer able to provide adequate supervision to their apprentice, several organizations are able to assist in locating the apprentice a new employer to recommence their apprenticeship with very little down time.
  7. Increased off-the-job training
  8. Where possible, during an economic downturn often one of the first ports of call is to check the availability of off-the-job training. This is often unsuccessful due to the limited placements available. Also, if the employer is experiencing financial distress due to the downturn, they may not be able to continue payment of wages whilst the apprentice is undertaking training. In these cases, the above options are considered initially.
  9. So whilst Industry do have successful measures in place to react when industry is feeling the stress of an economic down turn, there is certainly a need for additional mentoring and support to enable industry to be more proactive.
  10. We refer to Recommendation 4 and can state that through regular contact with our ApprenticeConnect members we have been able to manage the situation for individual members and routinely provide the above services prior to a situation of possible cancellation being considered.
  11. These services greatly reduce the cancellation rates when implemented by ApprenticeConnect.

Recommendation 14: