Oct 11, 2003

Australia’s skills crisis


Media Releases – Ministerial – Anthony Albanese – 11 October 2003

Today’s report in the Australian Financial Review clearly illustrates that Australia’s social and economic future is being severely jeopardised by the Howard Government’s inability to find real solutions to our skills shortages.

Currently in Australia there is a shortage of skilled people across a range of traditional trade occupations including carpentry, plumbing, cabinet making, bricklaying, panel beating and metal fabrication.

The skills crisis confronting the Australian economy has been caused by the financial incentive structure put in place by the Commonwealth Government and the inadequate funding of TAFE to provide additional places for young Australians.

Although employers, unions and researchers have all told Minister Nelson that he needs to develop a comprehensive response Minister Nelson has chosen to spend over $7 million on advertising to try and cover up the problems.

The Government must restructure funding incentives to ensure skills shortages are address.

Youth unemployment is nearly 23%. Yet last year nearly 15,000 young Australian missed out on a place at TAFE even though they met the entry requirements simply because the Government refused to adequately fund vocational education and training.

While the Minister repeatedly boasts that under his Government apprenticeships and traineeships have doubled, this has come at the expense of quality training outcomes. Most of the growth in the New Apprenticeship scheme has occurred in industries where there are no skill shortages such as retail and fast food.

The Government should invest in a strong traditional, apprenticeship scheme that ensures employers in the building and manufacturing industries are able to find, train and develop the right people for the jobs they have available.

The Government needs to stop wasting money on the plethora of phoney traineeships and invest money where there is real economic benefit to the community and a real pathway to a productive career for individuals. The Federal Government must contribute growth funding in the Australian National Training Authority Agreement currently being negotiate with the States.

While the Minister spends his time dressing in mechanic overalls at the car races in the hope of some cheap publicity Labor is committed to real solutions.

Labor’s ‘Brighter Futures’ program will provide $35 million to schools, universities and TAFEs to encourage young people to keep learning, and to get the education and skills they need for a good job.

Labor will also create 20,000 new TAFE places for young Australians. This will be a major contribution to addressing current skill shortage crisis.