03 Mar 2009 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Consumer Affairs about early finishes for trade apprentices.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: A number of contractors working under the Plumbers, Gas Fitters and Electricians Act 1995 have outlined their concerns to me about early licensing of apprentices and, specifically, that apprentices are finishing off-the-job training at either TAFE or a registered training provider and applying to OCBA to receive their licence before the four year on the job training has been completed. A number of contractors I have spoken to are concerned that this may lead to unnecessary accidents and affect the quality of the trade pool in South Australia.

One stated specifically that 'Electrical apprenticeships should now be five years for the amount of stuff we need to know.' At a regular meeting of the OCBA Plumbing and Electrical Industry Group in November last year, one of the attendees raised the issue that apprentices are being licensed by the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs early and without them first being signed off by their host. My questions are:

1.Can the minister clarify exactly what the guidelines for apprentices are and whether it is four years for on the job training?

2.Is she concerned that licences are being granted without being signed off by the host?

3.Will she review these conditions?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister Assisting the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Energy) (14:52): I thank the honourable member for her question. In terms of trade apprenticeships, the licensing of some of these qualifications does come under the Minister for Consumer and Business Affairs; however, the setting up of the courses, curriculums and accreditation and their articulation and credits given in terms of recognition for other courses, including interstate recognition, are things that are mainly done through the education sector, and it is mainly the TAFE sector.

The Licensing Commissioner does not have a great deal of say in that. However, there are certain standards in terms of the recognition of competencies and educational standards for the licensing of apprentices. My understanding is that these are well articulated, and I am advised that they are consistent with those interstate and, in fact, where they are not, there is a push at the federal level to bring about some national consistency around licensing to address those issues of inconsistencies where they occur. So, a great deal of work is currently being done and will continue to be done on that to bring about better national consistency, and that is in the interests of all our tradespeople, because it means they will be more easily and readily obtain employment across borders where at present in some cases they cannot, because some of their qualifications are not accredited or recognised interstate.

In terms of the licensing in relation to the signing off of apprentices, I am not familiar with the details around our policy in that regard. I am happy to look into it and bring back that information to this chamber. The advice I have received is that the way our commissioner goes about licensing is, in effect, consistent with what happens elsewhere. I am happy to take that detailed part of the question on notice and bring back a response.