Canberrans have been warned local butchers are a "dying trade" after data showed a steep drop in apprenticeships.
Figures collated by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research showed a decline in trainee butchers, hairdressers and childcare workers in the ACT since 2013.
It was felt hardest in hairdressing, with trainee numbers falling by 46.5 per cent, while butchery fell by 47 per cent. There were just 25 trainee butchers in the ACT as of December 2020, compared to 47 in 2013.
Marley Riordan, an employee at Jordo's Chop Shop in Wanniassa for a decade, has been advertising an apprentice role for over a month but has yet to receive a qualified application. He warned the industry was ageing and struggling with a lack of young workers to replenish it.
"There are no apprentice butchers around Canberra, or if they are they're not willing to move or happy where they are. It is definitely a dying trade," he said.
"If you went to supermarkets or other butcher shops, they're all older blokes in their 40s and 50s now."
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Butchery apprenticeships required three years of study at TAFE alongside in-work training. But Mr Riordan warned salaries had not increased over time, making other apprenticeships - in plumbing, electricity and carpentry - more desirable.
He said the shortfall was exacerbated by COVID-19, with increased demand for home delivery services outstripping even the frenetic Christmas period. Staff had been forced to work 13-hour days to cope.
Labor employment and skills spokesman Richard Marles said the decline resulted from years of neglect from the federal government.
"The much-loved Aussie barbecue is under serious threat if Scott Morrison continues to let the industry shrink at such an alarming rate," he said.
Newly-commencing traineeships in hairdressing were lower in 2020 compared to 2013 (declining 22.7 per cent), but rose in butchery (58 per cent) and child care (11 per cent).
While commencements slightly fluctuated from year to year, the Coalition pointed to the increases as evidence of a positive trend. It said the ACT had benefited from more than $40 million in skills funding since it took power.
"While Labor continues their increasingly shrill and hollow political attacks and lies, the facts remain the ACT has received an increase in skills funding every year since the Coalition came to government in 2013," Skills Minister Stuart Robert said.
The federal government this month implemented a 10 per cent wage subsidy for the second-year apprenticeships, dropping to 5 per cent in the third year.
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