08/03/2005 - 21:00

Skills shortage a political priority

08/03/2005 - 21:00

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Construction industry advocates say a shortage of apprentices is the major issue they will be taking up with the newly elected Gallop Government.

Skills shortage a political priority

Construction industry advocates say a shortage of apprentices is the major issue they will be taking up with the newly elected Gallop Government.

Skills shortages is cited by several industries as the major factor crippling growth, and with increasing attention being drawn to the issue and calls for reform, the Government may be forced to take action.

Housing Industry Association (HIA) executive director WA, John Dastlik, said the State Government needed to listen to industry in order to solve the problem.

“If Geoff Gallop’s comments about education and training are a central plank of his Government, that will be a good thing – but just throwing money at the problem won’t fix it,” he said.

“It’s not the money that industry needs, but flexibility in existing practices.

“We need flexibility in trade training, and we need to move to a competency based apprenticeship system, rather than a time-based one. This will attract more people and allow them to be trained quicker; we are trying to remove any barriers for young people coming into the industry.

“For up to 60 per cent of people, funds are a problem for getting trained, so we are also advocating a HECS-based system for TAFE.”

Mr Dastlik said the HIA supported the establishment of Australian Technical Colleges in WA as another way of training apprentices.

“There will only be two colleges in WA to start with, but it shows the Federal Government is serious about education and training,” he said.

The Federal Government has said it will provide $289 million over four years to create 24 technical colleges to address skills shortages in traditional trades, and has sought expressions of interest from industry groups.

Master Builders Association (MBA) executive director Michael McLean said skills shortages were the number one issue facing the industry, and that the system needed to move to a merit-based system rather than a time-based one.

“The time-based apprenticeship system is just not working and we need to make apprentices job ready quicker,” Mr McLean said. “We need to look at all options to solve this problem, including skilled immigration.”

He said Australian Technical Colleges were expected to train 300 students over a four-year term, and that 18 expressions of interest had been received in WA, with the Federal Government to issue a formal tender document.

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