Stood down

NEARLY 30 young unplaced Gippsland apprentices have been suspended by a local training organisation due to “financial reasons”.

An Apprenticeships Group Australia spokesperson said while the situation was “painful and very upsetting but necessary”, 16 Latrobe Valley and 12 West Gippsland apprentices had to be stood down temporarily, effective Friday. “These apprentices have been unplaced for three months or more,” the spokesperson said.

“Due to the severe downturn in activity, we have faced challenges in placing our apprentices, but have continued to pay them.”

The spokesperson said AGA had decided not to recruit any more new apprentices, especially in building trades, until all their current apprentices have been placed.

AGA has about 1100 apprentices across the state, and of those, 50 located in Gippsland were unplaced.

“This is a temporary measure; we are taking every step to consider other opportunities to put our apprentices back in placements,” the spokesperson said.

“The suspension may vary in length; it could be a couple of months, but if we can bring them back in earlier, (that would be good)…we hope this won’t last longer than a month or two.

“As soon as things turn around, we will have them back in places.”

Gippsland Trades and Labour Council secretary John Parker acknowledged the situation was challenging for AGA and the apprentices, and called on all three levels of government as well as local businesses to “step up to the plate”. “All projects should be required to have (a minimum number of) apprentices on it; for every four tradespeople (on a job), there should be one apprentice,” Mr Parker said.

“Now these kids, who will no longer be on the payroll will be on the dole; it’s unacceptable.”

Citing a “clear failure of governments in its responsibilities,” Mr Parker said the only way forward was for workers and the community to take direct action.

“If the AGA can’t take on more apprentices next year, in 10 years or so we’ll have a tradie (vacuum),” he said.

“We’ll be lobbying local council representatives to use apprentices in local maintenance jobs, as well as encouraging young apprentices to come and see us with their details, and we’re going to employers to encourage them to pick kids.”

Mr Parker said there was a significant drop-out rate for young apprentices, many of whom had been mistreated by employers. Meanwhile, 18 year-old mechanic Jared Lynch from Warragul was among those who received a letter informing him of his temporary suspension from AGA on Friday.

“I’m pretty stressed out; there was no notice,” Mr Lynch said, adding he had been unplaced for nine months. “I’ve still got (bills) to pay; I’ve got to find another job right away.

“(AGA) said we’d be guaranteed employment for four years, and that’s the only reason I went with them, so I’m really (upset).”.