Maturity bringing balance back
MATURE-age apprentice Darryl Butcher is a student and a teacher in the work place.
Butcher, 43, of Kawana on the Sunshine Coast, began a four-year electrical apprenticeship earlier this year with Stowe Australia and says he gets a kick out of working alongside other apprentices less than half his age.
"I've done a few jobs and worked as an electrical trades assistant," Butcher says. "I do enjoy electrical work and, being an apprentice, I'm allowed to do a lot of things I wasn't able to do as an assistant.
"I just wish I'd done it when I was 16."
Matthew Dixon, 16, started working with Stowe at the same time as Butcher and says having a more experienced workmate around comes in handy.
"It's great to have older apprentices around like Darryl to give some extra advice and guidance," Dixon says.
Butcher and Dixon were employed through Sarina Russo Apprenticeship Services.
General manager Steve Wyborn says mature and mid-career apprentices took a certain professionalism to the workplace to create a more balanced and stable environment that helps young apprentices and employers.
"With skill shortages being felt across the local business community, mature aged apprentices are an untapped source of employment who have so much to offer employers and younger staff members," Wyborn says.
Stowe Australia's apprentice coordinator Duncan McKenna says recognising the value of older workers and age diversity is a sound business strategy.
"We believe adapting your business to an ageing workforce will translate into significant savings in recruitment, training and productivity," he says. "Our mature aged apprentices bring with them invaluable skills that have a positive influence on our young apprentices.
"Our mature-aged employees go the extra mile. They stay in the job longer, are absent less and are a stabilising influence at work.
"Their maturity, loyalty, ability to make informed decisions, based on life experience, helps the younger kids deal more effectively with different people and different workplace situations."
Butcher says he believes his life experience has helped him a lot on the job and says a "can-do" attitude is one of the most important skills an employee can possess.
"These simple things make a huge difference but are often overlooked. I get a kick out of helping teach the younger blokes about the importance of reliability, attention to detail and politeness," he says.
Butcher attends TAFE at Nambour to complete the theoretical part of his training and recently completed a five week block.
"College is a bit of a shock to the system when you've been out of school for 27 years but I'm getting through," he says.
Sarina Russo Apprenticeship Services is an Australian Government-funded initiative with offices throughout Queensland and Victoria. It provides a range of apprenticeship needs offering free services, advice and assistance to employers, job seekers, trainees and apprentices.
Wyborn says the apprenticeship system is an effective vehicle for work-based learning.