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Union apprentices get the edge

Many of our brightest young AMWU members emerged from Queensland’s Apprentice Conference  asserting their right to improved training and greater fairness from employers to excel at their trades.

Last week’s conference proved that being an active union member can help you get the edge in your apprenticeship.

The 25 apprentices at the AMWU in Brisbane discovered the details of their workplace rights in talks from union experts, leaving with knowledge and confidence that being an active union member can help them in their workplaces.

AMWU Queensland-NT Apprentice Co-ordinator Ricky Luke said the alertness and enthusiasm of the apprentice members was inspiring.

But there was also frustration that a poor standard of formal training and lack of opportunity for shared learning  at TAFE threatened their full potential.

“Our future’s in good hands,” Mr Luke said.

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Celebrating our future: Apprentice Conference participants with AMWU National Secretary Paul Bastian (2nd from left), Queensland State Secretary Rohan Webb (right, front row) and Qld-NT Apprentice Co-ordinator Ricky Luke (3rd right, front row).

“I was impressed and proud of the effort they put in as our Conference speakers showed how the union could assist them and how they could take initiative to help fellow apprentices.

“Some lacked an understanding of their workplace rights and of required competencies under their training contract, so they loved the knowledge gained through the AMWU. There was no negativity.”

Brooke Reece said she couldn’t wait to get back to the Gladstone rail workshop to tell other apprentices about “one of the best two-day experiences that I have been involved in.”

Her workmate Rieland Plate said: “There was definitely a positive vibe, it was a great opportunity to talk to different experts, lawyers, trainers, other union reps and the Training Ombudsman.

“We talked about how a lot of workplaces had narrowed their scope of work, so you don’t get a broader range of work experience. We are trying to ensure that companies provide us with the training required by law, in each of the modules.”

Participants were employed in mining, rail, aviation and local government from Brisbane, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay and other centres.

Some regional apprentices were frustrated at training confined to their workplace, with poor oversight from trainers who rarely visited and left all the lessons to be done on-line.

This was a poor substitute for group classes at TAFE facilities.

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Learning experience: apprentice members listen closely to detailed briefings on their rights and how industrial law effects them.

Many apprentices also reported difficulty in expanding their skills to meet training requirements because they were often confined to narrow, repetitive tasks by their boss. They urged the State Government to put more resources into policing the system to ensure training was properly monitored.

Guest speakers included AMWU National Secretary Paul Bastian,  Queensland’s Training Ombudsman Geoff Favell (whose position was restored the State Labor Government), Patrick Turner from Maurice Blackburn lawyers.

The apprentices also turned up the heat on the Federal Turnbull Government to scrap its HECS-style apprentice loans and return to subsidy schemes similar to the former Tools For Your Trade.

Queensland State Secretary Rohan Webb said the apprentices’ recommendations showed maturity beyond their years.

“It was a productive conference for everyone, the enthusiasm in the room was contagious and we certainly learned first-hand about the challenges these apprentice members face,” he said.

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