Skills Shortage To Blame In Changed Economic Forecast

Skills Shortage To Blame In Changed Economic Forecast

Skills shortages are a key factor in revised Treasury forecasts showing Australia's economy will grow less strongly says the ACTU. Sharan Burrow, ACTU President said:

"The latest data showing that Australia's economy is expected to grow less strongly is proof that the $9 billion skills shortage is starting to bite and have a negative effect on growth.

The shortage of skilled workers in the traditional trades is now so bad that companies are being forced to turn to overseas countries to fill vacancies for welders.

A recent survey of investor confidence by employer group ACCI found for the first time that the number one constraint for investment was the availability of suitable qualified employees.

Australia's skills crisis is a problem that has been a long time in the making and which will now take a long time to fix. This is a major black mark on John Howard and Peter Costello's economic record. They have known for some time that labour shortages were emerging in the economy but have persisted with policies that are worsening the problem. These include:

1. Failure to ensure enough trades apprenticeships

  • Less than a third of the 400,000 apprenticeships the Howard Government claims it is currently supporting are actual trades apprenticeships. The Government dishonestly inflated its figures during the election campaign by including short-term trainees such as kitchen-hands in fast food outlets in apprentice numbers.
  • 2. TAFE funding frozen

  • Federal Government funding for TAFE has been frozen at 1997 levels despite a 16% jump in student numbers and unmet demand for up to 57,000 extra places. The funding freeze is forcing the closure of TAFE training facilities, putting teachers under pressure, leading to shorter courses, and threatening the quality of training & skills development.
  • 3. National Training Authority axed

  • In October the Howard Government abolished the body that co-ordinates industry training and the national portability of qualifications -- a move that threatens nationally consistent training standards across the vocational education and training sector.
  • 4. Toolkits and new tech colleges are election gimmicks

  • Instead of fixing the fundamental problems in the skills and training systems the Government resorted to gimmickry during the recent election campaign. It offered 'toolkits' to apprentices rather than increase incentives for employers that take on four-year trades apprentices. It also announced a new system of tech colleges, especially in regional areas, that will take years to be set up and then will compete with local high schools and TAFE colleges - leading to a reduction in resources and options for