Training sector experiences boom

BOOST: Fourth year refrigeration mechanic Mitchell Whan, who works for Elec-Air, is one of the many apprentices and trainees supported by Group Training Employment.

By Molly Taylor

AN ABUNDANCE of infrastructure projects, funding boosts and the Limestone Coast’s reputation has resulted in the “perfect storm” for a Mount Gambier training provider, which has recorded its highest annual number of apprenticeships and traineeships in over a decade.

Group Training Employment supported over 250 apprenticeships and traineeships last year, the most seen since 2010.

GTE general manager Greg Megaw said numbers decreased to 163 in March, but a combination of factors brought figures back up to speed.

Mr Megaw said the biggest increase was in construction and more specifically bricklaying, while numbers showed there were plenty of opportunities available for school leavers and people looking for a career change.

“I have been here 20 years and I have not seen numbers like this since 2010, it doesn’t happen very often, but there are plenty of opportunities out there,” he said.

“It looks like going into the start of 2021, it is going to be much the same.

“It is just a perfect storm in a positive way going forward.”

Mr Megaw said the largest catalyst was the increase in various federal and state government funding streams available, as well as strength in the Limestone Coast construction sector.

“Often when there is something as disastrous as what has happened this year, there is a rebound in the opposite way,” he said.

“I believe the reason why what’s happened down here is because Mount Gambier has been protected slightly from a lot of the COVID-19 issues going on.

“There is a general positive vibe around the local business community with many businesses looking at employing extra staff during 2021.”

Mr Megaw said businesses were now experiencing a wide range of benefits employing through group training organisations.

“It is also a safety net for the apprentices as well because if it works out they are not suitable to a certain environment, we can place them with another employer,” he said.

“With us, that commitment is not required and if they do find after 12 months they haven’t got the work they needed, or the apprentices doesn’t seamlessly fit into the industry, we have solutions to be able to place that apprentices somewhere else.

“Another big advantage is, if the businesses work increases, they can access further labour through us, by asking more apprentices for a small time. There is flexibility.”

When reflecting on the Limestone Coast region, Mr Megaw said the quality of apprentices and trainees was high.

“Apprentices based here get great exposure to the whole industry because we don’t particularly have specialists down here,” he said.

“Down here, most businesses are bits of everything and for instance a plumber will do roofing, gas, some new work, maintenance work, commercial work and more.”

Mr Megaw encouraged employers interested in taking advantage of funding opportunities or were in need of further workers to register with GTE.

“We are a not-for-profit, community-based organisation and are run by a board of 11 community-based people who come from all walks of life, whether its local government or a particular employment sector, education and more,” he said.