Aug 6, 2004

Labor backs ACCI’s call for action on skills


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 6 August 2004

Research released today by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) revealing that up to 82% of employers are concerned about their ability to recruit workers with appropriate skills, reinforces the need for immediate policy action from the Federal Government. Availability of suitably qualified employees is now the number one constraint on the private sector’s future investment decisions.

These findings follow warnings from the Australian Industry Group (AiG) that over the next 5 years 175,000 people will leave the traditional trades in Australia and only 70,000 are expected to enter.

Even the Government’s own National Skills Shortage List reports acute shortages across a range of traditional trade occupations including: metal fabricators; motor mechanics; auto electricians; panel beaters; electricians; bricklayers; plumbers; chefs; cabinetmakers; hairdressers.

If not addressed skill shortages threaten Australia’s future economic development. It is absurd that at a time when more than 1 in 5 teenagers are looking for full time work and almost 400,000 jobseekers have been on unemployment benefits for than 12 months, businesses are crying out for skilled workers.

This situation highlights a failure of government policy. Under the Howard Government, inadequate funding meant that last year more than 42,000 Australians missed out on a TAFE place. Furthermore, most of the growth in apprenticeships and traineeships has occurred in areas where there are no skill shortages such as retail, fast food and private security.

To date the only response from the relevant Government minister, Brendan Nelson, to the growing skills crisis has been a grab bag of toothless communication measures, more pilot projects, a new website, more taskforces and further reviews.

Labor understands the challenge before our country. At the heart of Labor’s efforts to tackle skill shortages is the commitment to invest $1 billion in both early school leavers as part of our Youth Guarantee and older workers as part of our Greater Security, More Opportunities for Mature Age Australians policy. Labor will:

• Abolish all TAFE fees for students wanting to learn a trade while still at high school;

• Fund an additional 20,000 TAFE places nationally;

• Provide a wage and training subsidy worth $10,000 to businesses wanting to take on and train early school leavers;

• Create a Training Partnership Fund to help employers re-train their older workers and a $2,000 Learning Bonus for mature age job seekers taking up an apprenticeship in an areas experience skill shortages;

• Fund 125 Mature Age Workplace Trainers in key industries to develop and implement workplace training plans.

While Minister Nelson talks about the need for action, Labor has already announced a number of policies that would ensure skill shortages are addressed. Further significant initiatives will be announced before the election.