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Mass exodus of young tradies 'looking for more money': 'We don't stick to one job anymore'

Third-year electrician Sam said the cost of living crisis means he and his colleagues are just getting by.

A young electrician has opened up about the difficulty of staying in a low-paying apprenticeship after a veteran builder claimed a mass exodus of trainee tradies was pushing the industry towards a "national disaster".

Third-year apprentice Sam Barker said while he’s on a good wage, many of his counterparts in other trades are earning below, on or just above minimum wage. In addition to that, they have to spend thousands of dollars on tools and equipment when they’re just starting out.

Mix that with a rising cost of living and the 26-year-old told Yahoo Finance that it’s no wonder many young apprentices are struggling at the moment.

Third-year electrician apprentice Sam Barker next to tradies
Third-year sparky Sam Barker says many tradie apprentices are struggling with low-wages during a cost-of-living crisis. (Source: Supplied/Getty)

Do you have a story? Email stew.perrie@yahooinc.com

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“Between apprentices, you definitely discuss how hard it is,” Barker said. “No one can just afford to save really. Every time you get that little bit ahead, you have to pay for more tools, bills come in, car problems, etc.”

He said he’d only been able to get by because he was living at home with his parents.

“I would barely have any money to myself after a week's wage really [if I paid rent],” he said.

While he loves the job he's working in, he knows there are many apprentices out there in different trades who aren't as lucky.

Barker’s comments come after Scott Challen, who has been in the building industry for 15 years, said too many apprentice tradies “buckle and crumble” before becoming certified. Tens of thousands have dropped out in recent years, which has caused a huge shortfall in the industry.

The CEO of building and home-improvement company The QHI Group told Yahoo Finance you had to be careful when dealing with the new generation of wannabe tradies who were sometimes "distracted" by technology, or lacking strong role models.

“[It’s] a different generation that kids are brought up a different way, with a different outlook on things,” Challen said.

“You can't yell at these apprentices. You can't say, 'Hurry the f**k up … I'm standing up a ladder and I need you to get your s**t together'. You can't talk to them like that. You've got to check in with them constantly [and] check their feelings.”

Challen said he tried to be more of a mentor for those trying to break into the industry and that there was a responsibility for seniors on site to "guide these kids as best you can so they don't quit".

Barker acknowledged there were some people who would get into a trade and realise it wasn't for them, but that there are a lot of young Aussies willing to put in the hard yards.

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“There's quite a lot of us out there that are very hardworking and dedicated to what we do in any industry. Any job that you go to, whether it's retail or medical or whatever, you're going to find people that are sluggish and slower than other people."

Barker said today’s professional work landscape was very different to when Challen would have been getting started, adding that even in his classes, they were told that many of them wouldn’t finish their apprenticeship.

“You don't stick to one job anymore, really,” he said.

“And that's in any industry you go into. You always find that someone has switched jobs within three years of where they're working. It’s kind of the normal thing. Everyone's just looking for more money.”

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