Apprentice assistance

HIA mentors are helping young apprentices with the issues they may face as they take their first steps into the world of work.


Chris Natt

The Industry Specialist Mentoring for Australian Apprentices (ISMAA) program aims to increase apprentice retention rates, particularly in the first two years of training. This should improve completion rates and the supply of skilled workers into the future. HIA is part of this government program, and provides mentorship to apprentices in the construction industry.

The importance of apprentices for the future of Australia’s construction industry cannot be overstated. The industry needs to attract, develop and retain apprentices to ensure a stable future.

There are many challenges facing apprentices within the industry. Statistics show that over 50 per cent of apprentices drop out of their trade training in their first two years. This has a significant impact on our trade numbers.

The Australian government noted this alarming statistic and funded ISMAA as a national mentoring program covering all trades where apprentice and trainee training occurs.

HIA was recognised as a construction industry specialist and has been funded to mentor Australian apprentices nationally.

HIA has employed 12 mentors and placed them at strategic locations on TAFE campuses in each of the states and territories. The issues that HIA apprentice mentors face are many and varied.

Leaving school and finding work can be a daunting time for young apprentices and decision-making processes can be clouded by poor judgement. Difficulties can then be compounded by the varying conditions encountered in workplaces.

The HIA mentors assist, support and guide apprentices through the first two years of their training. The mentors sit down with the apprentices one-on-one to help them resolve problems and issues they may face, either on the job or in their personal lives.

HIA apprentice
The HIA mentors assist, support and guide apprentices
Since the program commenced in February this year, our mentors have met with nearly 1,650 apprentices

As part of the face-to-face meeting process, mentors listen to the apprentice’s issues and concerns then tailor a plan to meet those problems head on. This aims to ensure that each apprentice is helped to continue their journey to become a future builder, business owner or industry leader.

Since the program commenced in February this year, the mentors have met with nearly 1,650 apprentices. Our aim is to meet with 3,000 apprentices face to face by June 30, 2019. The ISMAA contract allows for at least six hours of mentoring time with each of these apprentices up until December 2019. Meetings are arranged with the apprentices each time they return to TAFE to undertake their block training sessions.

To assist with the variable issues the mentors encounter, HIA has prepared several topics from which they can tailor specific personal plans for each apprentice. Some of the areas to address include:

• support in skill development
• career pathways
• worksite and personal safety
• additional training and studies
• confidence and motivation in the workplace
• goalsetting
• employment and wage advice
• financial guidance
• help with trade studies and learning difficulties
• strategies for effective communication
• referral to professional services (for issues relating to drugs, alcohol, or depression).

The ISMAA program is a free service and all first or second year apprentices in the construction industry are eligible.

The advice and assistance we have offered has provided much-needed comfort and guidance to the apprentices

The ISMAA program has been widely accepted by the TAFEs and their staff. TAFE staff have an extremely heavy workload throughout the year to meet the demands of the trade curriculums. In the past they have had to cope with not only lecturing and demonstrating the trade practices to the apprentices, but in many cases, they have also had to spend time with students having difficulties coping with aspects of their lives.

The ISMAA mentoring system will help to alleviate some of this added pressure on the lecturers and free up more of their time to concentrate on the classroom teaching and workshop activities. Additionally, having an independent person to speak to away from the job site and the classroom provides opportunities for apprentices to seek advice as well as to speak openly on topics which concern them.

It has been fascinating to see the many and varied topics our mentors have dealt with during the first eight months of the ISMAA program. Issues have ranged across being paid incorrectly, workplace bullying, safety issues on worksites, managing finances on an apprentice wage and personal life stresses.

Many of the mentored apprentices have commented how relieved and reassured they have felt after discussing their issues with an independent person. The advice and assistance we have offered has provided much-needed comfort and guidance to the apprentices. We trust this has alleviated some of their life pressures and helped them maintain a focus on their working life now and into the future.

To find out more call 1300 650 634 or email

Chris Natt, Project Manager, ISMAA Program.

Industry Specialists Mentoring for Australian Apprenticeships

The Industry Specialist Mentoring for Australian Apprentices (ISMAA) program aims to increase apprentice retention rates, particularly in the first two years of training, in order to improve completion rates and support the supply of skilled workers in industries undergoing structural change.

The ISMAA program provides an intensive and specialist level of assistance to apprentices and trainees who are experiencing barriers to completing their training through frequent contact from a highly skilled industry mentor with appropriate skill sets. The apprentice or trainee will develop an Individual Mentoring Plan with their mentor that will outline the range of support that will be provided.

The ISMAA program is delivered by 24 organisations across all states and territories covering a range of industries including: building and construction, accommodation and food services, electrical and health care.

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