Sydney Trains faces the future with massive apprentice intake

Nicholas McCallum

Biggest apprentice intake for Sydney's rail network in 20 years. 

The future of Sydney Trains and of the ETU was on display in January with the company’s largest apprentice intake in at least 20 years.

The 85-strong group aged from 16 to 45 years includes 29 women and five Indigenous apprentices. They bring an enormous injection of talent ready to train in several electrical and mechanical trades.

More than 50 apprentices signed up to join the union on the day, a testament to the great organising work being done out of the NSW branch, which will also be visiting KONE where 55 apprentices are soon to start.

Sydney Trains had its biggest apprentice intake in 20 years.

Youth/Apprentice Officer Tara Koot also spoke on the day and said it was great to see so many apprentices sign up to the union then and there.

“It’s great seeing so many young workers, and such a diverse group, getting the opportunity to work on such a vital infrastructure network,” she said.

“I’m proud of the work my ETU comrades have been putting in here at Sydney Trains and in every industry, we’re seeing our efforts bear fruit now.

“I’m proud of the ETU and I’m proud I’ll be working with this latest crop of apprentice sparkies too.”

More than 50 apprentices joined the ETU on the day.

NSW ETU Rail Organiser Anthony O’Sullivan commended Sydney Trains on the intake, stating that with more than 70 electrical apprentices inducted at Sydney Trains this year it was evidence that building a strong future for the city’s rail network was a priority.

“There are no big apprentice intakes in NSW anywhere any more like we’ve seen at Sydney Trains,” he said.

“We had 30 apprentices taken on last year, 85 this year and Sydney Trains is aiming to take on more than 100 next year.

“They’re looking to plug the holes in the network that have been ripped open by the NSW Liberal Government, in the maintenance sheds and with the drivers.

“And if Labor get in at the election we’ll be pressuring them to put on even more.”

ETU NSW Apprentice Organiser Tara Koot and Rail Organiser Anthony O'Sullivan.

ETU NSW President Glen Potter addresses the new recruits.

Apprentice Delegate Darren Wood all spoke at the Induction Day held at Clyde Hub, as well as ETU NSW President Glen Potter who later said he wanted to see Sydney Trains put on more trades and frontline staff now to help the network staff in the sheds, driving the trains and watching the platforms who are already spread too thin.

“It’s good but we’re playing catch up again. They are chronically overworked and understaffed at Sydney Trains,” Potter said.

The branch President said the government needs to look at the staffing problems it created when it put bans on apprentices training up on the Sydney network several years ago.

“These apprentices won’t be part of the system for another four years,” he said, adding there will be need for many more trade and frontline staff on the Sydney Metro and light rail projects as well.

ETU National Apprentice Officer Mark Burgess said there was much to celebrate at Sydney Trains in the coming years and thanked delegates for their hard work on the ground.

“Fantastic to see 85 new apprentices joining Sydney trains this year, including a number of women and Indigenous apprentices,” he said.

“Congrats to all of you and welcome to the mighty ETU. You will be in good hands with Glenn Potter, NSW Branch President and apprentice delegates Phill Nguyen and Darren Wood looking out for you.”

Burgess also thanked Prameesh Chandra “for his work advocating for apprentices over the past few years and to Peter Woods who works tirelessly ensuring that apprentices receive the appropriate training and skills to work in the industry”.

“The future of Sydney Trains looks bright with the next group of ETU members coming through,” he said.

Sydney Trains is expected to take on more than 100 new apprentices in 2020.

Since the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government ripped more than $3 billion from the TAFE system and oversaw declines of 38% in enrolments, the ETU will be stepping up the fight in 2019. 

The ETU’s priorities for the year ahead include:

  • Ensuring TAFE is back on track and receives adequate funding to train the next generation of apprentices;
  • Seeing Electrical trade training is strengthened, and the electrical licence protected;
  • Pushing for more apprentices to be employed;
  • Ensuring appropriate supervision of apprentices;
  • Pushing for ratios of apprentices wherever possible;
  • Pushing for union representation on all boards/committees relating to apprentices.

With the NSW and Federal elections taking place in the first half of the year, apprentice concerns will continue to be a top priority for the union.

The ETU NSW will also be looking at strengthening the trade for railway lines workers as part of the push to tighten-up licensing across the state.

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