Apr 9, 2003

Arrogant minister ignores skills crisis


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 9 April 2003

The Minister for Education, Science and Training, Mr Brendan Nelson, in his response to the article contained in today’s Daily Telegraph failed to understand that his New Apprenticeship System is failing to address skill shortages.

In a typical contradiction, the Minister claims credit for the numbers growth but blames the deficiencies in his Government’s New Apprenticeship System on state and territory governments.

The point raised by the Daily Telegraph article is that while over the past 6 years there has been a significant increase in the overall number of people undertaking traineeships and apprenticeships, this growth has not been occurring in industries experiencing skill shortages.

There is a skills crisis and these shortages are caused by the financial incentive structure put in place by the Commonwealth Government.

Everyone but the Minister knows this. Both employer associations and the union movement alike have repeatedly raised concerns about skill shortages across a range of traditional trade occupations.

The Australian Industry Group’s Heather Ridout has pointed out that the growth in the New Apprenticeship Scheme has disguised an “alarming fall in technical and engineering apprenticeships”. For example, engineering enrolments in NSW TAFE colleges alone are down 35% over the past 8 years.

Further, the number of apprenticeships in the traditional trades has fallen to its lowest level since the June quarter of 1998.

These skill shortages highlight a failure of Commonwealth Government policy. Under this Government, the nation’s training dollar is not being targeted towards addressing acute skill shortages in the economy, or providing young Australians with the skills that will improve their long-term career prospects. Young people want real training, not a scheme that allows them to be exploited as cheap labour.

Australia needs a National Skills Strategy that both benefits participants as well as ensures long-term economic prosperity.

NOTE: To solicit the experiences of those young people who have undertaken apprenticeships or traineeships, Labor will be conducting a Phone Hotline, Young Workers: Demand Respect, this Friday (11 April). Labor frontbenchers and ACTU organisers will be staffing the Hotline – 1300 364 022.