Emma McMahon gave up her hairdressing apprenticeship because she could not afford to live on such a small wage, and her boss could not afford to keep her.
Emma McMahon gave up her hairdressing apprenticeship because she could not afford to live on such a small wage, and her boss could not afford to keep her. Georja Ryan

Apprentices feel pinch

THERE is no disputing apprentices have been tossed the short straw when it comes to pay cheques, but some Warwick apprentices have even had to wave goodbye to their qualifications in order to survive.

Emma McMahon was over half way through her hairdressing apprenticeship when her boss could not afford to keep her on, but it was a similar story from Miss McMahon's end.

"It was really hard. In my first year I was on $6/hr and in my second year I was on $9/hr," Miss McMahon said.

"I was working 25 to 30 hours a week when I was pregnant so my whole wage was towards rent and I had to take on a second job at the Big W Distribution Centre.

"I just think it will phase out and people won't be able to afford to be qualified."

President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Ged Kearney said the low pay rates meant apprenticeships were out of the question for some people.

"Such low wages are a key reason given by apprentices for the increasingly high drop-out rate, but they are also a major disincentive for even taking up an apprenticeship in the first place," Ms Kearney said.

State secretary of Plumbers Union Queensland Bradley O'Carroll said although he had not noticed an escalation in apprentice drop-outs, it was becoming harder to attract people to the industry.

"I find it very hard to attract kids in to the industry because people flipping burgers are earning twice as much money," Mr O'Carroll said.

"These workers are up at 4am to start at 5.30am or whatever it may be and they're working ten hour days.

"Their wages don't reflect what they do."

Busy at Work Apprenticeships Services industry training consultant Donna Howard said there was a lot of support out there for those on a small wage.

"There is lots of funding out there and over 25s are eligible for support for Adult Apprentices," Ms Howard said.


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