Old-fashioned apprentice system is killing trades

POOR pay is deterring young people from taking on a trade, with research showing some apprentices are living below the poverty line.

The research, by Professor John Buchanan from the Workplace Research Centre at the School of Business at the University of Sydney, found apprentice wages were failing to recognise shifting demographics with more than a quarter of those entering trades now over the age of 25.

Prof Buchanan also found a number of apprentices were abandoning their training because of financial stress.

The research was commissioned by the Electrical Trades Union, with the report released on Thursday at the union's national apprentice conference in Sydney.

ETU assistant national secretary Allen Hicks said the current award system was outdated.

"It's from the 1950s, when apprentices were 15 years old and lived at home with mum and dad," Mr Hicks said.

Prof Buchanan's report includes worrying findings about the impact of current wages on meeting Australia's ongoing skills needs.

Mr Hicks said that with Fair Work Australia due to begin hearings in Sydney next week, as part of their Modern Award Review Process, this report was an important step in identifying how retention rates could be substantially improved.