We were charged $85 an hour recently for a job in which electronic security apprentices were used and the work took considerably longer than it should have done. Should there be a lower rate for apprentices? We can’t imagine they are being paid $85 an hour. And how long should it take to install CCTV cameras and access control doors, in SEN’s opinion?

A: Rates of $85 an hour for an apprentice are considered acceptable. You are touching it with a needle when you question the rates these installers receive – especially apprentices – it’s going to be less, in some cases we’ve heard. It’s worth pointing out that even talking about installer rates is sensitive, given it may lead to suggestions of rate setting.

As in any service provision, rates vary and it’s certainly worth paying higher rates for excellent work that guarantees reliability and performance. In Victoria, rates for a quality access control installer can go as high as $150 per hour, though it’s usually a bit less in NSW. Quality mid-sized integrators can charge at up to $380 an hour. For bigger companies with greater resources and higher levels of support, rates can go much higher – the highest we’ve heard of is $600 an hour.

These observations are not gospel and should not be taken as such – there are no set rates for security installers and there’s a low point past which it becomes impossible for professional integration businesses with teams of staff and a well set up office and workshop to do quality work.

As for whether some large integrators charge good money and then contract the work to smaller firms at a much lower rate while pocketing the difference – that’s certainly happening. It’s up to the end user to ensure the integrator they are using looks after its team, pays them properly and requires that team to meet quality standards.

When it comes to the work apprentices turn in, that depends on the tech and the team. A capable apprentice well along in their training supported by a senior tech or supervisor is going to be doing competent work. There should be provisions in a contract if this is not happening. So long as the quality of the work is high, the work is supervised by one of the integrator’s best techs, and the time taken is agreed in advance, contract rates should be the same, in our opinion.

When it comes to work times, much depends on the build of the site, but you’d be expecting a single tech to manage 4 doors in a day, or 6-8 cameras in a day. An apprentice might be slower on the first few jobs but they’ll be up to speed after that and if they’re not, it’s likely training/mentoring are at fault.

We think there’s a tendency to pull the best and brightest techs off the tools and pull them into roles in IT and technical support. While understanding why, it’s a shame installation teams are not paid sufficiently well to encourage brilliant young techs time for creative integrations of the latest solutions.

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