Future Tradies

By
Updated: December 5, 2013
A student calibrates a flow meter Pic { SkillsTech

The term ‘Jack of all trades’ is not new, yet it is more relevant than ever if you want to earn big bucks. And the big bucks are there to be had. A 2012 wages report from Suncorp Bank found six of Australia’s top 10 highest paid industries were in the trades.

However, in order to command the coin you need to ensure your skills are broad and up-to-date as employers demand workers with multiple skillsets, according to John Tucker, Director of Educational Delivery at Queensland’s largest TAFE, SkillsTech.

Tucker told WTW emerging technologies and practices meant a base trade was not the end of the learning process.

“Your trade is really important [as a foundation] and then you can upskill and go on as new and emerging industries come on board,” he said. “These days you can’t just get a base trade or qualification and rely on that for the rest of your career… you need to be generalist and you need to be specialist.”

According to Tucker, tradespeople with multiple qualifications added value across their employer’s business, increasing productivity.

The National Secretary of the CFMEU, Dave Noonan said companies must be proactive about training and upskilling their workforce if Australia is to meet the skills demands of the future.

“Some employers are terrific and others train absolutely zero, including some of the biggest employers who then cry out about skills shortages,” Noonan said, adding that jobseekers should research and enquire about training prospects offered by potential employers.

 

Future Demand
With construction yet to bounce back to pre- GFC levels and demand for tradies in coal and related industries softening, what does the future hold?

“With coal coming off a boom that is really being replaced by activity in the gas sector, we’ve had strong demand across the electro-tech trades: electrical, process instrumentation… particularly to the
resources sector,” John said, adding that heavy commercial and diesel automotive trades are experiencing strong growth along with heavy fabrication and boilermaking.

SUB Electrical Bechtel apprentice, Mathew Ribet workign with POV glasses Pic { SkillsTech

Apprentice, Mathew Ribet working with POV glasses                    Pic | SkillsTech

SkillsTech Australia sees gas as so important that they have developed – in conjunction with industry partner, Santos GLNG – a natural gas field simulator to enable students to better learn required
skills. This simulator is just one example of how technology is changing the way trades are taught and learnt.

TAFE Queensland CEO, Jodi Schmidt told WTW, “The way in which we will deliver training will change; out of the classroom and into the workplace.”

Schmidt said technology will enhance those processes into the future, with the increasing use of technology like pointof-view glasses that enable apprentices to record their work through images and
video, and upload it to their teachers for assessment via specialist apps such as the one being developed by SkillsTech carpentry teacher, Bill McConaghy.

Theory-based assessment can and already is being undertaken online. However, Bill said he does not currently assess theory remotely via the internet when students are local because of the difficulties in accurately testing them and ensuring they are not using outside help.

Training reforms
2013 has seen a continuation of decreasing apprenticeship commencements pretty much across the trades in varying degrees (down 32 per cent in construction over two years according to Master Builders Australia).

State governments are responding by implementing major structural changes to the apprenticeship system…

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