**Please note the information below is FCTA’s interpretation of recent changes, employers should contact FairWork to work out pay rates for their apprentices.**

The Fair Work Commission decided this year that ‘competency based wage progression’ should be applied to apprentices in the building industry. This means that instead of apprentice pay rates progressing each year they are employed, their pay now progresses based on the % of trade school they complete and are found ‘competent’ in.

For example, you may have a tiling apprentice that you signed up on 19/01/2014. There are 19 units that apprentices are required to complete over their tiling apprenticeship. That apprentice has been at trade school and has completed the first 5 units of their training plan. As they have completed over 25% they move into what has traditionally been the 2nd year pay rate – even if they have only been working for you for 3 months. If the apprentice does not complete 25% of trade school, but has been working for over 12 months, they are still moved into the 2nd year pay band.

Trade schools are bound by training packages that detail what needs to be taught and assessed for each unit. Sometimes these requirements are more detailed than the name of the unit suggests. For example, the unit ‘Tile Curved Surfaces’ requires students to tile a circular column that is at least 360mm in diameter by 1m, as well as tiling a standard door arch and more. Once the set projects have been completed to the trade schools satisfaction, the student is deemed competent. In the past there has been no requirement for the RTO to notify employers when a student becomes competent in a single unit. Most issue an academic transcript to the employer at the end of the year. This will now have to change so employers can adjust apprentices pay rate as they complete units in 25% increments.

The latest changes to the apprentice award also allow for employers to dispute a trade schools finding of ‘competence’ within 21 days of being notified by the trade school. If the dispute can not be resolved, it is then referred to Trainee & Apprenticeship Services – the state government body that manages training contracts.

This is a huge change to apprenticeships. So far there has been very little communicated about these changes. As information becomes available we will be updating our website and facebook pages. If you have any questions you would like raised about this, please email us at [email protected] and we will follow up. When I spoke to Fair Work last week about this issue I asked them if employers unaware of these changes could be held liable for back pay. Their response was that ignorance of the changes does not matter if a claim is raised that an apprentice has been under paid.