Electrician Sam Wood has spent two years working at Major Electrical, in Paget, after completing his apprenticeship in Mackay. Photo: Zizi Averill
Electrician Sam Wood has spent two years working at Major Electrical, in Paget, after completing his apprenticeship in Mackay. Photo: Zizi Averill

Not enough tradies to train Mackay apprentices

MACKAY industry says the reason behind the reduced number of apprentices in our region is a lack of skilled tradesmen to train them.

Resource Industry Network general manager Adrienne Rourke said factors like the downturn and people's perceptions about mining had shrunk the available trades pool.

"I think across the board in the mining services base and across regional Queensland, there's a shortage," Ms Rourke said.

Queensland Labor Senator Nita Green said education department data released this week revealed 3281 apprentices and trainees had been lost in the Mackay region since 2013, plummeting 37.54 per cent in Dawson and 42.76 per cent in Capricornia.

"There are so many terrific businesses in North and Far North Queensland that want to grow and hire more staff, but they are being let down."

But Ms Rourke said those figures were indicative of the challenging downturn which affected the whole of Mackay's workforce and resulted in reduced market confidence.

"Everyone would acknowledge there are less apprentices around and there is a concern about the future pool of skilled workers ... we've got to get past the fact that this has happened and move on to how we can change it," Ms Rourke said.

She said many tradespersons were less willing to move for work, discouraged by unemployment rates that may not accurately reflect industry employment figures and choosing to work outside of mining such as supplying to the defence sector.

Major Electrical operations manager Peter Duck said the business struggled to find tradesmen with workshop, hazardous background and overhaul experience.

"It's probably something we've always struggled with," Mr Duck said.

"I guess during the downturn a lot of people moved away from Mackay with that skill set.

"At the moment we have skilled tradesmen that we are trying to bring into the office into management roles but we still need the tradesmen with experience on the floor to teach the apprentices.

"We're struggling really bad."

He said they were willing to bring in people with no site experience provided they had the right attitude.