Training crisis threatens industry's future: AMWU
Australia risks destroying the training capacity it will need to transform manufacturing due to governments nationwide starving and dismantling TAFEs.
The AMWU welcomed a landmark Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) study, which found it is essential to have workers' skills formally recognised and their qualifications upgraded if local manufacturing is to compete with the world's best.
But the AWPA's final workforce study coincided with a leaked report from the Victorian Auditor-General's office.
That report found that the TAFEs best placed to teach and upgrade the workforce's skills are in deep crisis due to drastic State government funding cuts initially exceeding $300 million.
Half of the 14 Victorian TAFEs that were formerly profitable are now in debt and increasingly forced to cut back crucial manufacturing and engineering courses.
The AMWU's Training Co-ordinator Ian Curry said the desperate plight of Victoria's TAFEs, with hundreds of teacher redundancies, was being reflected across Australia.
"The Workforce and Productivity Agency acknowledges we need a well-trained, qualified workforce yet governments are busy tearing down the very means by which we can remain a first-world, sophisticated manufacturing nation," Curry said.
The day after that AWPA study was released, the Abbott government moved to smother the Agency's independent voice by axing it and transferring its functions to the federal Industry Department.
Curry condemned the move, which may reduce scrutiny on state governments introducing funding that gave preference to private training providers over TAFEs.
"This is no time for an ideological experiment with private training operators," he said.
The AWPA report found that 45 per cent of the manufacturing workforce hold no post-secondary qualification compared to 39 per cent for other industries, yet 90 per cent of the future of manufacturing jobs are likely to require this education.
CEO Robin Shrieve said manufacturing had a bright future if managers and workers had the training and education to develop innovative products for niches in global markets.
But this transformation had to start by boosting employees' literacy and numeracy, plus building on existing Recognition of Prior Learning programs.
Curry said that Australia urgently needs a national strategy to properly integrate industry with the TAFEs and universities which were training its potential workforce.
Without it, there would continue to be unemployed workers with the wrong qualifications, while employers resort to hiring 457 visa workers in skilled trades.
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