Mar 31, 2003

Skill shortage inquiry visits Brisbane


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 31 March 2003

Today the first in a series of public hearings being conducted by the Senate’s Employment, Workplace Relations and Education References Committee into skill shortages will be held in Brisbane.

The Labor Party instigated this Senate Inquiry late last year in response to the growing body of evidence that the Howard Government is failing to adequately plan for the current and future skill needs of the Australian economy.

These concerns were underscored by figures released earlier this month by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations that identified skill shortages across a range of traditional trade occupations including:

• Metal Fitter

• Metal Machinist

• Toolmaker

• Metal Fabricator

• Welder

• Sheetmetal Worker

• Motor Mechanic

• Auto Electrician

• Panel Beater

• Vehicle Painter

• Electrician

• Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic

• Bricklayer

• Plumber

• Chef

• Cabinetmaker

• Hairdresser

• Furniture Upholsterer

We also learnt earlier this month that the numbers of people commencing apprenticeships in the traditional trades has fallen to its lowest level since the June quarter of 1998.

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

These figures 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.

Australia must raise the skill levels of its workforce if it is to address skill bottlenecks and remain fully competitive in the international economy. Given the quality of those submissions already received by the Committee, I believe the current Senate Inquiry will identify the industry and training strategies that will best deliver this outcome.

To date the Committee has received more than 40 submissions from employer associations, unions, training organisations and academics. While in Queensland the Committee will visit Gladstone (1 April), Cairns (2 April) and Mareeba (3 April).