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Push to turn forgotten ‘wet’ trades into a hot ticket: Katter

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The Hon. Robbie Katter, Member of Traeger, Media Release, 12 December 2022

Katter’s Australian Party is flagging a proposal incentivising Year 12 students to take up the forgotten “wet” trades of bricklaying, concreting and scaffolding in a transitional schedule strategically-timed with the winter weather.

In response to predictions that North Queensland would face an alarming lack of willing workers in the “wet” trades of bricklaying, concreting and scaffolding in the next decade, the KAP proposed to incentivise and provide employment pathways for an annually-set number of Year 12 students.

The student target numbers would be devised annually through collaboration between industry leaders, schools and the Education Department.

The students, who elected to take up Certificate III apprenticeships in these critical but forgotten industries, would be transitioned into the workforce part-time during the milder winter months of July to August, and move into full-time work upon graduation from Year 12.

Coinciding the initial training with the cooler months would help prepare workers in acclimatising to laborious work in the sweltering summer whilst letting them see out their final schooling year, KAP Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter said.

“It’s hard enough getting kids into these trades now let alone in the oppressive hot summer months straight after they’ve finished school, so it makes perfect sense to put more effort into getting them into the work when it’s cooler,” Mr Katter said.

“The sad reality is many young people don’t want to work these days, especially hard, laborious work. And for the ones who are willing to work, bringing them on board full-time in the height of summer when they’re not acclimatised spells serious disaster and is leading to a dire shortage.

“This is the scheme that would counteract that and I’m going to formally propose it to the Education Minister.”

Quentin Kersh from Kersh Concreting joined with Kylie McIlroy from Townsville Scaffold Hire and Yellow Block Road and her block-laying apprentice, 16-year-old Tuhiwai Searle, to front the media with Mr Katter last week in Townsville, with all voicing their support for the proposal.

Mr Kersh estimated 80 per cent of school-leavers didn’t yet have a full-time job, but that attracting them to take up one of the forgotten trades was a hard task coming into summer.

“Kids nowadays come out of 13 years in air-conditioned classrooms, sports rooms, cars … they’re totally unaccustomed to working in general,” he said, adding that even some of his most seasoned and acclimatised workers struggled with heat by 7:30am some summer mornings, which reflected the difficulty in attracting new, young workers.

Mr Kersh suggested condensing eligible students’ final schooling into the first few months of Year 12 and then bringing them into the workforce during winter, to ease them into the work and ensure they didn’t miss graduation. The work could be lucrative for committed workers, he added.

“A kid could become a qualified tradesman and earn $40 an hour by the time he’s 18,” he said.

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