May 28, 2004

Only Labor wil fix Queensland’s skills crisis


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 28 May 2004

My visit today to WorldSkills Australia 2004 in Brisbane, the country’s largest vocational education and training competition, is an opportune time to point out that the 2004 Federal Budget contained not one new initiative that would alleviate Queensland’s growing shortage of skilled workers – a problem that if not addressed threatens the future economic development of the State.

According to the Federal Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, Queensland is experiencing an acute shortage of workers across a range of traditional trade occupations including: metal fabricators; motor mechanics; auto electricians; panel beaters; electricians; bricklayers; plumbers; chefs; cabinetmakers; and hairdressers.

The Australian Industry Group in its submission to the Senate’s Skills Inquiry reported that “over half of the businesses surveyed face skill shortages”. Unfortunately, the plight of these employers is only likely to worsen. Over the next 5 years, 175,000 workers are expected to leave the traditional trades with only 70,000 expected to enter.

It is absurd that at a time when teenage unemployment in Queensland stands at 20.7%, businesses are crying out for skilled workers. It also comes at a time when more than 85,000 Queenslanders have been receiving unemployment benefits for more than 2 years.

This situation highlights a failure of government policy. Under the Howard Government, TAFE funding has been cut by $377 million leaving more than 15,000 young Australians without a 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.

By contrast Labor is committed to finding solution. At the heart of Labor‘s efforts to tackle skills shortage and ensure all young Australians are equipped to take advantage of current job opportunities will be our Youth Guarantee: Learn or Earn for the 45,000 young people who drop out of school early.

Labor’s Youth Guarantee will provide new opportunities to teenagers by:

• Lifting school retention by 15,000;

• Abolishing TAFE fees for secondary school students;

• Providing 7,500 additional apprenticeships and 7,500 new TAFE places for 15 to 18 years;

• Establishing a new Jobs Gateway – wage and training subsidies for 10,000 early school leavers.

Staying at home on unemployment benefits will no longer be an option.

Labor’s Youth Guarantee will prevent today’s early school leavers becoming tomorrow’s long term unemployed and ensure employers have access to the skilled workers they need to expand their businesses.