Could you live on $225 a week?
WOULD you slave away in the hot sun for eight hours a day in return for a measly $225.04 a week?
Many first-year electrical apprentices do and the electrical union says their wages must be boosted to increase apprenticeship completion rates and ease the skills shortage.
Mackay's Ben Muntelwit has just finished his apprenticeship and is looking forward to doubling his $16.50 an hour pay rate.
But he can remember struggling to get by, like many others, at the start of his apprenticeship.
"It's definitely hard the first couple of years you're doing it because you're only making $300 or $400 a week, if that," Mr Muntelwit said.
"If you do live out of home it's pretty hard to live. I lived at Mum and Dad's for the first two and a half years of it and then I moved out.
"I just made do with what I had, I suppose."
The electrical union claimed first-year apprentice wages were below the poverty line and said the high drop-out rate would have dire consequences for the economy.
"It's little wonder that four in 10 apprentices don't complete their training - it's almost impossible for them to survive on the wages they receive," the union's national secretary Peter Tighe said.
"Australia is headed into a multi-decade resources boom and unless we boost wages and apprentice completion rates, there will be a chronic shortfall of skilled electricians."
Mr Muntelwit's employer, CNC Electrical Services owner Charles Kreyts, who pays his two apprentices just above the award wage, supports the call for pay rises.
"Especially if they're performing and they're doing extremely well," he said.
"They're worth their weight in gold and a pay rise."
These are the typical wages of electrical apprentices:
- First year: $225.04 a week ($11,700 a year).
- Second year: $331.55 a week ($17,240 a year).
- Third year: $446.32 ($23,000 a year).
- Fourth year: $552.83 ($28,747 a year).