Nov 26, 2003

Under Nelson skills crisis worsens, more young people miss out on a TAFE place


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 26 November 2003

Today in Question Time the Minister for Education, Science and Training, Dr Brendan Nelson, again attempted to avoid responsibility for Australia’s skill shortage crisis despite it being a product of his Government’s under-funding of the vocational education and training sector.

At a time when the number of people on unemployment benefits long-term is higher than 1996 and 200,000 young Australians are currently not in full-time work, education or training, businesses across the nation are crying out for skilled workers. This situation is nothing short of irrational.

The Australian Industry Group reported to the Senate Skills Inquiry that “over half of the businesses surveyed face skill shortages.”

Furthermore, the most recent figures from the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) show vacancies amongst skilled occupations have increased, especially in the traditional trades such as metal fabrication, automotive and electrical.

In and around Minister Nelson’s own electorate there are currently:

• 25 positions for Carpenters and Joiners;

• 6 positions for Metal and Engineering Trades;

• 11 positions for Motor Mechanics;

• 9 positions for Painters and Decorators;

• 7 positions for plumbers;

• 7 positions for Hairdressers; and

• a massive 71 positions for carers for the aged and disabled.

These skill shortages highlight a failure of Government policy.

Despite the obvious need for more skilled workers, the Howard Government’s refusal to provide adequate funding means that every year 15,000 eligible young Australians miss out on TAFE place.

Commonwealth funding for TAFE is provided through the Australian National Training Agreement. A new Agreement is currently being negotiated with State and Territory governments. In the face of threats from Minister Nelson and no offer of growth funding, State and Territory ministers are rightly refusing to accept the Commonwealth’s current offer. Under the Howard Government more young people will keep missing out on a TAFE place.

By contrast, a Crean Labor Government will create 20,000 new TAFE places.

Labor’s TAFE policy – Aim Higher: Learning, Training and Better Jobs for More Australians – will ensure all Australians can access the training and education opportunities that will improve their long-term career prospects.