Nov 10, 2003

Howard Government fails to fund Australia’s future


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 10 November 2003

Today’s report in the Herald Sun supports what Labor has been saying for sometime: under the Howard Government the national training dollar is not being targeted towards addressing acute skill shortages in the economy and is being increasingly used by some employers as a source of cheap labour.

Minister for Education and Training, Brendan Nelson, regularly boasts that under his Government the number of people undertaking apprenticeships and traineeships has doubled. However, most of the growth in the New Apprenticeship scheme has occurred in industries where there are no skill shortages such as retail, fast food and private security.

Today’s report follows closely on the heels of last week’s Senate Committee report into Australia’s skills crisis. The report, Bridging the Skills Divide, found that there is an acute skill shortages across a range of industries including childcare, secondary school teaching, panel beating, metal fitting and fabrication, carpentry, plumbing and cabinet making.

In addition, this growth in numbers appears to have come at the expense of quality training. Research into the non-completion rate revealed that almost half (47%) of those who did not complete their apprenticeship or traineeship did so because they felt they were “being used as cheap labour.” Last year the Commonwealth paid out $7.6 million worth of incentive payments to employers to commence trainees who did not complete their traineeships.

The Government needs to stop wasting money on a plethora of phoney traineeships and invest money where there is real economic benefit to the community and a pathway to a productive career for individuals.

A place at TAFE offers young Australians the chance to gain real skills that will lead to a decent job, yet the Government can’t find a single cent to fund extra TAFE places for the 15,000 young Australians who missed out on a place each year despite having met the entry requirements.

Next week at a meeting of Federal, State and Territory Training Ministers, Dr Nelson will have to explain:

• Why 15,000 young Australians miss out on a TAFE place despite having the marks; and

• Why there is no growth funding from the Commonwealth in the proposed ANTA agreement despite this level of unmet need.

Considering that the Commonwealth Government invests more than $400 million in the New Apprenticeship scheme it is incumbent upon them to ensure that that money is not being wasted or abused by unscrupulous employers.

Or as the Herald Sun said in its editorial:

“That money could do a world of good. We need to know, for sure, that it is.”