Issue 9
Monday, 19 June 2017
Charles Darwin University
University Fellow Dr Don Zoellner
University Fellow Dr Don Zoellner

Northern heat may explain high attrition rate

By Patrick Nelson

Northern Australia’s summer months have proven too hot for many “outdoor tradies”, say Charles Darwin University researchers after analysing more than 20 years of apprenticeship data.

University Fellow Dr Don Zoellner said that while it may seem obvious to link extreme heat with apprentice tradie attrition rates, multiple reviews into the shortfalls of the training system had never made the connection.

But Dr Zoellner, a VET policy expert based with CDU’s Northern Institute in Alice Springs, said a fresh look at national data suggested that northern Australia’s climatic conditions were clearly a factor in apprentice non-completion rates, which had remained persistently low for decades. 

“About 58 per cent of the 105,000 trade apprenticeships that have commenced above the Tropic of Capricorn since 1994 have not progressed to completion,” Dr Zoellner said.

“A disproportionate number of these occur in the fourth quarter of the year when northern Australia experiences its hotter, more humid weather. The pattern is not as evident for southern Australia and does not apply to traineeships that are carried out mostly indoors.”

Dr Zoellner said the findings were significant in the context of the economic development of northern Australia, which relies heavily upon trade occupations that frequently work outdoors.

“It is also cause for concern if the warming in northern Australia continues as anticipated.”

Dr Zoellner described the research in an article published in the current edition of the International Journal of Training Research, co-authored by sports physiologist Dr Matt Brearley, and human geographer Dr Elspeth Oppermann, both of CDU.

“It was a combination of this cross-disciplinary approach and our choice to look beyond state boundaries that made visible what previous observers had not seen in the ‘big data’ collected by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).”

Dr Zoellner said that in the 21 years that the NCVER had been collecting data, about 4.8 million training contracts had begun in Australia and 2.2 million, or 45 per cent had resulted in cancellations or withdrawals.

For the full journal article visit W: tandfonline