Training Ombudsman to review apprentice experience

Minister for Employment and Small Business and Minister for Training and Skills Development The Honourable Di Farmer

The Queensland Training Ombudsman will examine the support available for the state’s apprentices and trainees, with a special focus on removing barriers for women in traditionally male-dominated trades.

Minister for Training and Skills Development Di Farmer has asked the Queensland Training Ombudsman to review the support measures available to apprentices and trainees across the state.

“Apprentices and trainees are the skilled workers our businesses and economy will rely on in the future, which is why we made investing in skills a key focus in our COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan,” Minister Farmer said.

“There’s over $1 billion in training and skills this year alone, and our free TAFE and free apprenticeships for under 25s have helped more than 36,000 young Queenslanders so far.

“The Palaszczuk Government has made gender equity a key priority throughout our policy making, and that absolutely includes women training in traditionally male-dominated trades.

“Our work is already making a difference. At TAFE, 53 per cent of those taking up VET funded programs are women. Public bodies like Qbuild have set targets for female participation, and currently 14 per cent of those on its worksites are women.

“Across Queensland the number of female engineering trainees has increased by more than 500 per cent in the last year, and female engineering apprentices by 22 per cent. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported 16.6 percent of all trade workers in 2020 were women, up from 14.7 percent in 2018.

“There’s clearly more to do but we are making good progress when it comes to recruiting women to these traditionally male-dominated trades.

“However, it’s not just about recruitment. We need to make sure sure apprentices and trainees have a positive experience during their training so that they complete their qualifications and enter the workforce.

“Unfortunately, I hear too many stories about work environments that create barriers for women. This includes stories of direct bullying and harassment simply because they are women, and that’s something no woman should have to endure.

“It’s critical that these barriers are removed so that women can complete their training.

“I want to make sure that the Palaszczuk Government’s significant investment and commitment to female apprenticeships and traineeships is resulting in real change.

“That’s why I have asked the Training Ombudsman to identify any gaps or improvements that can be made and recommend additional measures – especially around reducing instances of harassment and poor treatment – if needed.”

Attorney-General and Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman said this was another example of how the Palaszczuk Government was supporting women.

“We know women were hit hard economically by the pandemic. And we also know male dominated trades such as construction and engineering, play such a significant part in our economic growth here in Queensland,” Minister Fentiman said.

“That’s why our government is focussed on supporting the economic security of Queensland women by ensuring they have access to jobs in these industries and remove barriers that might keep them from staying there.”

Queensland Training Ombudsman Geoff Favell said the office had completed a number of reviews into different aspects of the training system and routinely works with apprentices, trainees, students, training organisations, employers and other stakeholders.

“A key theme of the review will be ensuring all apprentices and trainees are provided with supportive, healthy and safe work environments that foster quality training arrangements,” Mr Favell said.

“I will be reviewing the support currently available to all apprentices and trainees with a particular focus on women working in male-dominated occupations.

“Creating an environment where apprentices and trainees can successfully complete their qualification is the best outcome for everyone involved – the apprentice, the employer and the industry.”

Sheree Taylor, Queensland President of the National Association of Women in Construction, said her organisation was strongly advocating for improving the participation of women in construction and related industries and welcomed any support that would help achieve this goal.

“The barriers and challenges faced daily by women wanting to enter the industry more often than not continue to plague them throughout their apprenticeship years and beyond and is something NAWIC has been working towards addressing through a variety of programs and resources from our Passport to Diversity strategy.” Ms. Taylor said.

“NAWIC congratulates Minister Farmer on the courage and leadership to take a deep dive into these barriers and challenges, and we look forward to providing the Training Ombudsman support to successfully overcome them.”

Minister Farmer said for many young people and apprenticeship or traineeship is their first experience in the workforce.

“It requires balancing work, study and other commitments for up to four years.

“Removing barriers and providing the right support will ensure the apprentice or trainee successfully completes their training and provides our industries with the skilled workers they need.”

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