Thursday, September 8, 2016

Apprentice betrayed and let down

***One thing I hate is when politics interferes with watchmaking. 

The two should be kept as far apart as possible and both parties should mind their own business. We let politicians do whatever they are good at and we focus on making watches.

However, yesterday, we felt the full blast of an unfulfilled promise made by the Government.

When I saw the look of disbelief on Tyler's face while reading that letter, I knew that something was not quite right. The offer of a $20,000 loan, promised to him when he signed up for the apprenticeship only 3 months ago, was simply withdrawn.

The loan was supposed to help him get through the hardship of working at minimum wage while learning the trade, to assist him with accommodation, and if anything was left of it after 3 years, to assist him with acquisition of some very basic watchmaking tools.
$128 per week is not a huge amount - and please do remember - this is not a gift, but money to be repaid back to the Government. But the Government changed its mind.
"The Department of Industry have advised your application for the Trade Support Loan has not been approved as they have removed the Watch and Clockmaker Occupational Outcome from the official National Skills Needs List."

There is really not a long queue of smart young people lining up to take on these apprenticeships. Especially not who already have a university degree and who could easily find a better paid job. 

According to Sydney TAFE, there are only 12 watchmaker apprentices in the entire of Australia who will commence the course next year. But the Government concluded loud and clear, in black and white, that in Australia watchmaking skills are not needed. The young people keen to develop the finest of all mechanical micro engineering skills are simply not wanted.

As said before, I mind my own business and I don't take sides in politics. But it is obvious that all the fancy talk about the "smart nation" we hear today are just empty words. In reality, the Abbot-Turnbull Government has cut more than $2.8 billion from skills and training and that cut just hit my business, today, right now, in very nasty way.

Tyler had been counting on that money. It was firmly promised to him. I have no doubt that he would have taken up watchmaking even if the Government hadn't made that offer, but the fact is, his faith in watchmaking has now been tested. And the fact is, I will be the one who is going to have to explain to him that he cannot count on the Government to help him become a watchmaker.

In a way, this could be good thing. Figuring out very early on in your career that you can only count on your own strength, determination and perseverance will make you tough and resilient. After all it is not the government’s job to turn you into a rebel; when someone kicks you in the guts, you pick yourself up and kick back.

"If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward" – said Martin Luther King Jr. Why? Because making your mark on the world of horology is bloody hard. If it was easy, everybody would do it.

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