The Communications Electrical Plumbing Union (CEPU) has launched a national campaign to increase wages for apprentice electricians, arguing that the low wages paid to apprentices are a disincentive to commence an apprenticeship and are directly linked to low completion rates.
Currently, a first-year apprentice’s wage is as little as $225 a week, putting them just below the poverty line and only marginally better off than people on unemployment benefits - hardly an incentive to take up an electrical apprenticeship.
“It’s little wonder that four in 10 apprentices don’t complete their training - it’s almost impossible for them to survive on the wages they receive,” CEPU National Secretary Peter Tighe said.
The CEPU campaign launches with new research from the Workplace Research Centre (WRC) which shows that half of all apprentice electricians are over 20 years old and a quarter are over 25.
“The modern apprentice is a fully fledged adult who has already notched up some educational achievements. They deserve to be paid a liveable wage,” added Tighe.
“Australia is headed into a multidecade resources boom and unless we boost wages and apprentice completion rates, there will be a chronic shortfall of skilled electricians.”
The WRC report also shows that only 61% of all electrical trades jobs are filled nationally. “There is a concrete link between apprentice wages and the skills shortage, and it’s our apprenticeship completion rate,” Tighe said.