Before the downturn Australia was suffering from a skill shortage which was seriously holding back economic development. To capitalise on future growth and to create jobs here, we have to consider now what skills we need. In the past we have been a productive, innovative and clever country. Many of our greatest innovations have benefited the world. Many of them we have failed to capitalise on. We have taken our ingenuity for granted. Sustained growth can only come out of building skills where products and services are created and built here.
Both political parties seemed to regularly interchange the words, skilled and educated as if they were identical. No doubt they are connected, but a degree in Creative Arts will produce an educated person and will do little to address the problems of the mines in Western Australia.
Conventional thinking by both parties was that increased investment in tertiary education would create a clever country with all the skills required in plentiful supply. The reality has proved somewhat different and the problem is going to get worse as the changing demographics of Australia come into play and the Green Economy demands more practical skills.
The average age of many trades and professions is increasing with no policy in place to replace all those who will retire. It is not enough to bring in skilled migrants. How many hairdressers and chefs do we need? How many of those migrants are still employed in their trade after five years. How does overseas training in trades and professions translate to the Australian situations? Australian youth is entitled to the opportunities past generations have had, and with that the responsibility of a productive work life.
The media is now belatedly waking up to the problem, but some of the solutions they are espousing are patently absurd and would appear to reflect the political and philosophical views of some lobby groups. One superficially attractive idea is to carry out vocational training at school. This ignores the fact that the schools do not have the qualified staff or the facilities available and the kids will rapidly lose interest in and forget skills that they have no opportunity of putting into practise. To provide meaningful training and the acquisition of work related skills it is necessary to involve industry. Since many of our major companies are foreign owned, appeals to patriotism are not sufficient.
AUSBUY believes that we should introduce a targeted training levy from every business over a certain size with credits being given to companies who operate approved trainee schemes. These should be supported by an enhanced TAFE which is resourced to provide the necessary support. The training should be competency based and salary progression should reflect enhanced skills rather than time spent as a trainee. The advantages of these traineeships must be promoted so that there will of suitable candidates who believe that acquisition of these skills will result in well paid and satisfying employment.