Sep 15, 2004

Where are all the tradespeople?


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 15 September 2004

“…the skills shortage crisis is here and now.”

This is the conclusion reached by the Australian Industry Group (AIG) after an extensive survey of manufacturing companies.

As a consequence of this skills shortage:

“…it would appear that Australian industry is being constrained from achieving its full competitive capabilities and possibly losing opportunities to benefit from Australia’s robust domestic growth.”

After 8½ years managing the Australian economy, the Howard Government must take responsibility for failing to make sure Australia’s vocational education and training system was supplying the skilled workers manufacturing needs to compete and grow. And apart from publicly lamenting the changing attitude of young people towards a career in the ‘traditional’ trades, has taken no action to reverse it.

The lack of national leadership over the past 8½ years is now hampering growth in a major sector of the Australian economy – the manufacturing sector.

The major findings of the AIG survey include:

• More than one in two firms were experiencing difficulties in finding the skilled workers they needed; and

• There are currently between 18,000 and 21,000 unfilled vacancies for tradespersons – five times the actual number of new people employed in manufacturing over the past 12 months.

Most disturbingly, the AIG survey found that while companies where expected to lift their apprenticeship numbers by around 5 per cent per year over the next two years, this remains “far too low a growth rate to overcome current and expected shortages.”

This outcome is an indictment on the Howard Government’s $500 million a year New Apprenticeship scheme and further proof that the growth in apprentice and trainee numbers over recent years has been largely confined to industries where there are no skill shortages, such as fast food, retail and private security.

Under the Howard Government, the vocational education and training sector is failing the taxpayer as well as Australia’s manufacturing sector.