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Earn as You Learn Through Apprenticeship

Earn as You Learn Through Apprenticeship
Energy Fiji Limited Levuka staff members who kick-started their career as apprentices from left: Shyam Achaiya (apprentice from 2005-2010), Joseph Douglas (1982-1986), and Mun Sami (1988-1992
September 15
11:23 2018

As a young person about to finish secondary school, I was interested in some­thing where I could learn the skills and earn an income at the same time.

I remember as teenager talking to some friends who proudly said they were apprentices.

 

It was an honour to be called an apprentice, because that person was deemed capable of learning the skills from their boss, and be­ing paid for their work.

It didn’t take me long to decide that I wanted to become an appren­tice too.

And as a former apprentice, I owe it to the scheme for building my ca­reer.

Apprenticeship is one of the old­est forms of occupational training.

This is where a person learns first-hand from an experienced tradesperson, acquiring the mas­tery of the trade.

This system of hands-on skills trainings equips a person with the right sets of skills and experience to transition directly into a job.

Skills training is extremely im­portant so that we have capable individuals who can meet the fast paced changes to skills demanded in today’s work environment.

Hence, such a scheme can be a worthy solution to many worrying trends by employers and the indus­tries about fresh graduates’ gap in skills in the job market.

The scheme

The national apprenticeship training scheme is managed by Fiji National University’s National Training and Productivity Centre.

This year we celebrated 55 years of running this scheme in Fiji.

Since its inception, more than 8,400 apprentices from various trades and technician levels have successfully completed their pro­gramme and are in the workforce.

The need for qualifications rather than mere skills was recognised as early as the late 1974s.

Since then, more emphasis has been put on transferable competen­cies such as the capacity to plan or handle methodologies.

The thinking was in terms of systems, and developing social communication skills, a sense of responsibility and a critical mind.

Given the high level of occupa­tional mobility in Fiji, these chang­es have brought added flexibility to the labor market.

What is apprenticeship?

Apprenticeship is an intensive, on-the-job training scheme which is accompanied with theory lessons to produce highly skilled workers.

The scheme is made up of three parties – the apprentice (student), the employer (provides hands-on practical training), and FNU (theo­ry lessons facilitator).

We are taking on apprentices in 22 different trade areas.

From aircraft maintenance, fit­ting and machining, refrigera­tion and air-conditioning, to plant maintenance engineering.

We also have seven technician levels in automotive engineering, mechanical engineering and tel­ecommunication engineering, to name a few.

Best feature

The best feature of apprentice­ship scheme is that its relevance to the changing skills needs of the industry.

Students are trained on the job, learning the most recent skills and use of technology trending in the job market.

Currently, about 200 apprentices are being trained by about 40 com­panies registered with the Appren­ticeship Scheme.

We are noticing a gradual increase in apprentices as more employers are showing interest in joining the scheme.

Why become an apprentice?

As an apprentice, you will sign an employment contract for a specific time with an employer, which can be up to four years depending on the kind of programme.

Your salary will usually go up from one year to the next as you learn new and more valuable skills.

So, rather than paying tuition to learn future job skills, you will earn while you learn.

When you become an apprentice, you are able progress further into higher education while attaining skills on the job to become a quali­fied skilled trades person.

Also, all the training/tuition fees are funded by your company.

Employers also provide you with tool and travel allowance.

Moreover, the skills and quali­fication acquired while being an apprentice enables a great variety of career growth even before the completion of the apprenticeship contract.

For instance, some apprentices before even completion have been offered permanent positions in the company, and including some who have been offered managerial roles even before the completion of their apprenticeship term.

Why employers can join apprenticeship scheme?

Employers play a crucial role in ensuring that apprentices success­fully compete in the labour market through recognition of its qualifi­cations, adaptation of curriculam to new developments, and the pro­vision of training into industrial sector or respective trades.

Their involvement appears to be vital for conferring the necessary status.

Therefore, attractiveness, on ap­prenticeship training, as well as helping to make systems more re­sponsive to new developments.

Apart from the 200 per cent tax rebate on first year wages and sala­ries paid to the apprentices and 150 per cent tax

Rebate on tuition fees and the scheme being grants claimable, there are numerous other advan­tages of undertaking the appren­ticeship scheme.

Firstly, the scheme provides a growing work force in a cost effec­tive way while having a positive impact on the overall productivity of the organisation.

Secondly, it helps retain trained apprentices in the organisation while assisting in the organisa­tional succession plan for future leaders.

Moreover, employing an appren­tice offers a return on investment.

Who can become an apprenticeand how?

As long as you are 18 years and above with a pass in form six, have a passion to work and learn and are willing to be part of a diverse team, you can become an apprentice.

When companies advertise for ap­prentice intake, you could directly apply with the company or talk to the national apprenticeship train­ing department and they will assist you through the process.

The scheme has been the devel­oped many men and women into successful leaders in various trades and organisations today.

One of the success stories of ap­prenticeship is Vishwa Reddy, who graduated as an electrical appren­tice in 1995, and is currently the Mill Manager at Bluescope Pacific Steel Fiji Limited.

He undertook his apprenticeship training with Public Works Depart­ment.

Apprenticeship awards

Outstanding apprentices who have successfully completed their apprenticeship contract receive a paid trip to New Zealand or Aus­tralia, and weeklong tour of indus­tries in Fiji to grasp the trending skills and technologies in the trade sector.

Outstanding apprentices are re­warded with tool vouchers and cash prizes.

So earn as you learn

This ‘earn as you learn’ model is an ideal win-win for both the stu­dent and the employer.

The students gets skills and a job without having to pay-off univer­sity study loan.

The employer benefits because they already have workers whom they have trained on required skills.

Such a scheme is an ultimatum to­wards one’s path of success.

So if you’re looking to start your career, apprenticeship is an excel­lent way of gaining essential expe­rience and a recognised qualifica­tion.

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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