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Underpayment of electrical apprenticeships exacerbates skills shortage

Despite Australia’s critical shortage of skilled workers, many trade apprentices are living on a wage that falls below the poverty line and is barely higher than the unemployment benefit, exacerbating the shortage according to research from the University of Sydney’s Workplace Research Centre (WRC).

Declines in the wages of electrical apprentices have contributed to roughly 60 percent of new trainees dropping out, says WRC Research Analyst Hanna Shutz. This has occurred despite the increase in the average age and education of apprentices - from 15 years old in the 1950s to at least 18 years old, often 25 years old today - the increase in school education, and the urgent skills shortage in the economy. Electricians are in particular short supply.

First year minimum wages of $225 per week renders apprentices dependent on parental support to attain even austere standards of living. Car ownership is typically unaffordable, as are unexpectedly large bills or ill health.

School leavers who move directly into paid work and receive a junior wage will typically earn $40 to $70 more than a first year apprentice. Research indicates this is a key cause of skills shortages, wherein 12.5 percent of job vacancies for electricians are unfilled in Sydney.

Read more at University of Sydney

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