Dec 9, 2003

New apprenticeships fail to fix skills shortages


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 9 December 2003

Figures released today by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) reveal that only 1 in 3 (30%) people participating in the Howard Government’s New Apprenticeships Scheme are undertaking training in the traditional trades. In 1998 the figure was more than 1 in 2 (52%).

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.

The decline in the numbers undertaking traditional apprenticeships can only compound the skills shortages already being experienced across a range of traditional trade industries.

In its latest National Skill Shortage List, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations has identified skill shortages across a range of traditional trade occupations including:

• Metal Fitter

• Metal Fabricator

• Welder

• Sheetmetal Worker

• Motor Mechanic

• Auto Electrician

• Panel Beater

• Electrician

• Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic

• Bricklayer & Plumber

• Chef

• Cabinetmaker

• Furniture Upholsterer

• Hairdresser

Furthermore, the Australian Industry Group in its submission to the Senate’s Skills Inquiry reported that: “over half of the businesses surveyed face skill shortages.”

These skill shortages highlight a failure of 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.

Today’s report from NCVER also reveals that that the number of people cancelling or withdrawing from their training program continues to increase with the September quarter recording the second highest rate of cancellation and withdrawal since 1998. In fact the number of cancellations and withdrawals has doubled in the last five years.

According to recent research 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.” In 2002/03, $7.6 million worth of incentive payments were paid out to employers for new apprentices who did not complete their training course.

Minister Nelson must ensure scarce training dollars go to the best option not the cheapest.