Electricians are in massive demand, yet a survey of those in training has found almost 40 per cent were considering quitting their apprenticeship.
It's prompting fears of a looming shortage as the nation transitions to renewable energy.
On Monday, the federal government released a list of the 10 most in-demand professions, which included electricians, but industry figures are worried the skills crisis could worsen.
The survey of 642 electrical apprentices, conducted for the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), found low wages was the top reason they were dropping out.
ETU acting secretary Michael Wright said a lack of financial support and mentoring was a growing concern.
"We're talking about the trades and skills that we so desperately need for all the work that's coming down the pipeline, in connection with the transition to renewable energy, in connection with people getting electric vehicles, electric cooktops, all of this work," Mr Wright said.
"We have such an enormous need for electrical workers over the next 10 to 20 years.
"If we're not getting these people through now, we're just creating the skills shortage for the next decade."
One third of apprentices surveyed said their pay was insufficient to cover bare necessities such as food, travel and housing.
Fourth-year apprentice Carlin, who works on the NSW central coast, said it was a big challenge to live on her wage.
"Especially going through COVID, and inflation, it's becoming harder and harder to support ourselves throughout our apprenticeship," she said.
"Especially in first year, I had to accept a lot of help from family and friends to be able to get me to my second year.
"It wasn't until I turned 21 that I was able to move out on my own and support myself. I had to travel an hour and a half to work sometimes and it became very difficult with upkeep on the car and fuel costs."
Thousands more sparkies needed for energy transition
The national transition to renewable energy going to require a massive workforce expansion and upskilling of electricians.
The Australian Energy Market Operator is predicting an extra 12,500 skilled workers will be needed for large-scale renewable energy projects within the next five years.
National Electrical and Communications Association SA and NT executive director Larry Moore said improving completion rates would be crucial for making that happen.
"I must say that the attrition rate of apprentices across Australia is pretty awful," he said.
"I did a survey a couple of years ago in SA where the completion rate was about 68 per cent of electrical apprentices which is a massive investment.
"It's pretty obvious that good mentoring and good recruitment is all important to keep those kids in the apprenticeship."
Calls to overhaul mentoring systems
It's not only electrical apprenticeships where high drop-out rates are worrying industry figures.
Australian Apprenticeship Employment Network executive director Gary Workman said many young people were going into training programs without a full understanding of what their next step would involve.
"We only have around about 50 to 60 per cent of young people finish whatever they start. This is not just an issue for apprenticeships but across the board," Mr Workman said.
Mr Wright from the ETU wants the federal government to overhaul its Australian Apprenticeship Support Networks, arguing they weren't fulfilling their role of mentoring training electricians.
"The government is well aware of the need to train apprentices, they've already announced 10,000 energy apprentices, but what we need is 10,000 energy apprentices finishing, not 10,000 apprentices starting and 48 per cent of those dropping out," he said.
In a statement, the federal Skills and Training Minister Brendan O'Connor said given the decline in apprenticeship completion rates over the last decade, targeted and effective mentoring would critical to see apprentices through to completion.
He said next week's Jobs and Skills Summit would be an opportunity to discuss innovative ways to improve the quality of apprenticeships.