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Thursday, 11 November 1976


Mr GOODLUCK (Franklin) -I rise to support the Bills and to add that I am a firm supporter of the provision of more assistance for technical and further education. However, I believe that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has done all within his power to accommodate this important sector in 1977. For the remainder of my speech I should like to deal specifically with the question of apprenticeship, I firmly believe that apprenticeship can be aligned with the real problem of unemployment in Australia today, particularly among the young people. I specifically draw attention to what I thought was a very fine article in the Australian Financial Review of 4 November 1976. Under the heading 'Government eventually will have to bite the apprenticeship bullet', it states:

State and Federal Ministers for Labour and Employment will meet in Melbourne next week to review the existing apprenticeship support programs, and hopefully agree on a new cost-snaring formula between the Commonwealth, States and employers.

But as the States so far have rejected revenue-raising suggestionsincluding adjustments to payroll tax- to lift their own contributions, and employers are unlikely to be stimulated except by direct subsidy, the likelihood of the meeting reaching any kind of consensus on the point seems remote indeed.

It is quite possible that the meeting will reach some agreement on ways by which the present program can be made more efficient, and lead to some improvement

The sorts of suggestions -

I draw attention to this matterbeing discussed by a working party of officials on the subject, include a greater use of technical schools, particularly during the long vacations, an acceleration of formal off-the-job training, shortening the period of indentures where possible and a more flexible use of pre-apprenticeship training.

It has also been proposed that the subsidy to employers under the National Apprenticeship Advisory Council be spread over the three or four years of apprenticeship, rather than concentrated in the first year of training.

Such moves by themselves could result in some reduction of the present high 'wastage' rates of apprentices, calculated to be as disproportionate as 40 per cent in some N.S.W. industries compared with 9 per cent in South Australia.

Quite apart from those apprentices who simply 'drop out' because of the length of indentures, one of the major problems has been the number whose indentures have been suspended or even cancelled by employers in the second or third year when the NAAS subsidy is not available.

This trend has become even more noticeable during the current period of economic recession.

I have paid particular regard to that article because I believe that we as a Government need to look more closely at apprenticeship training. I believe that our training has dropped behind that of other countries and that if we are to improve the unemployment situation amongst the young we need to improve the apprenticeship training.

Historically, technical and further education appears to have been an area of neglect in Australia. On only 2 occasions in the past has technical and further education reached a prominent position in Australia's post-secondary education system. During the World Wars its role was temporarily expanded to provide required skills and training for servicemen and, during the intermediate post-war years, for ex-servicemen. Apart from those periods of national emergency it is widely considered that technical and further education has been both under-valued by the community and inadequately supported financially. We have an extremely difficult problem with youth unemployment. Before I talk about apprenticeship and the history of apprenticeship let me say that I believe it is important that I have the statistics pertaining to the young recorded in Hansard for all honourable members to read.

There are 2 distinct dimensions to the youth unemployment problem in Australia. The first and most obvious reflects the severe effects of the recession on employment among young people, particularly those in the IS to 19 age group. The second dimension, which is a structural dimension, is reflected in the disturbing long term trend that has been evident since the mid-1960s for the unemployment rates among the 15 to 19 age group to rise independently of the state of the economy. This trend is common to almost all advanced Western countries. The present high levels of youth unemployment are thus the result of severe unemployment superimposed on progressively worsening structural unemployment problems. In other words, unemployment amongst the young is not simply a result of the current general deficiency in labour demand. There is the further underlying dimension to youth unemployment which can be expected to persist irrespective of economic recovery and improved labour demand. Moreover, for reasons indicated later, unemployment among the young is unlikely to abate more than marginally in the forseeable future and a further intensification of the underlying youth problem is to be expected.

At the end of May 1976 there were 103 000 persons under the age of 2 1 years registered as unemployed with the Commonwealth Employment Service, including 20 100 school leavers. The severity of the unemployment amongst the young is amply revealed in the following: The unemployment rate for those under 20 years of age in May 1976 was 12.5 per cent, or more than four times the rate of 3 per cent for those aged 20 and over. The unemployment rate for the under-20 age group has been in excess of 10 per cent since November 1974. Although persons under 20 years of age comprise only 12 per cent of the labour force they account for 36 per cent of the total unemployed. There were 35 young persons registered as unemployed for each vacancy registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service at the end of May, compared with the adult unemployed to vacancy ratio of 8.7. The need for employment of the young unemployed is most important and therefore the need for improving the apprenticeship situation is also most important.

Apprenticeship as a means of teaching the skills of the artisan to young workers dates back at least as far as 2100 BC. The modern system had its origin in the mediaeval guilds and was confirmed in English law under an Elizabethan Act- the Statute of Artificers- in 1563. When the Industrial Revolution created a multiplicity of new trades and the domestic system of production was superseded by factory production, the Statute of Artificers was repealed. That was in 1814. The practice of apprenticeship was not revived until technical education began to develop in the 1870s. In the intervening period 'apprentices' were Poor Law charges on the parish who were sent to work in the cotton mills in the north of England. The apprenticeship system developed by negotiation between union and employer but there was no system of registration and no requirement that the apprentices be indentured or that they undertake work at a technical college. Until 1964 each industry determined its own apprenticeships and, although this was the method of training in the engineering and electrical trades, there was no government regulation. The Industrial Training Act of 1964 aimed at ensuring an adequate supply of skilled men and women and at improving the quality and efficiency of training and sharing costs more evenly between firms.

Talking more specifically now of the situation in Australia, in the early days the term 'apprentice' was applied to orphans and poor children who were used as cheap labour in farming occupations, husbandry and domestic service. The laws of England covered the apprentices and masters in the colony. The first Australian legislation relating to apprenticeship- the Appren- 'tices Act- was passed in New South Wales in 1894 and it was expanded in the Apprentices Act of 1 90 1 . This was followed by legislation in other . States. Apprenticeship commissions- which exist in 3 States, directorates or executives have been established as statutory authorities in each of the States to control and administer the apprenticeship system. The combined list of apprenticeable occupations under State and Commonwealth awards is over three hundred. The apprenticeable trades are those in which employment as a junior may be undertaken only through a recognised apprenticeship. The Australian Apprenticeship Advisory Committee provides an interstate forum consisting of the permanent heads of the State labour departments and the directors of the technical education and apprenticeship executives in each State. The AAAC operates largely through working parties which make recommendations on various aspects of apprenticeship training.

Apprenticeship is the normal avenue of entry into a skilled trade. The apprentice is indentured to a master craftsman or tradesman. He receives his practical training on the job and his theoretical training at a technical college or school. In the past such theoretical training was normally on a system of day release or evening classes, but block release for longer periods of full time schooling is becoming more common. During those periods the employer is required to keep the apprentice on full pay. Most States provide technical correspondence courses for country apprentices in remote areas.

The educational qualifications for entry into an apprenticeship vary among the States and the trades, but normally the equivalent of Grade 10 or Grade 9 schooling is required. The State legislation sets no age limits to entry into apprenticeships, but Federal awards govern the age of entry. The length of apprenticeship is 4 or 5 years. When the apprentice completes his articles he may undertake specialist certificate courses or technician courses. The Australian Government also provides through the Development Bank a number of apprenticeship and scholarship awards for more advanced courses. Since 1971 the Australian Government has assisted the States to employ apprenticeship training advisers who visit industrial establishments and advise employers on apprenticeship training.

The problems of apprenticeships are extremely difficult and complex. Unfortunately Australia is suffering as a result of a shortage of skilled tradesmen and this is one of the reasons why we have such high unemployment among the young. We must look at this problem most closely. Next year and the year after governments should work to this particular aim of improving the apprenticeship system. An increasing shortage of skilled tradesmen in Australia has become apparent in recent years. The report of the Tripartite Mission of 1968-69 on the training of skilled workers in Europe has made it clear that this shortage is world wide. The Mission pointed out that Australia faced strong competition from developed European countries which offer firm working contracts and the ability to return home regularly. Australia therefore cannot expect to overcome its shortage by increasing the intake of skilled migrant labour. The report recommended that in Australia we update our training methods with a view to meeting from within our own country the greater part of this demand for skilled workmen.

Some years earlier the. Report of the Committee of Economic Inquiry in 1965, the Vernon Report, pointed out that immigration was a more costly source of skill than training additional craftsmen in Australia. The Committee of Inquiry into Labour Market Training points out that although immigration has been a valuable source of skilled labour in the past it is not clear that intakes have always been sufficiently closely related to labour market needs. It also mentions the inflationary pressures that may arise from immigration.

The shortage of apprentices and, thus, of skilled workers seems to lie rather with the failure of employers and organisations to train apprentices than with the lack of school leavers applying for apprenticeships. In Victoria alone last year 10 000 applications were unsuccessful. Small companies think they are at risk with indentured apprentices as they are unable to guarantee employment over the period of training. Allied with this is a general feeling that the training periods are too long. More work is let out on contract which means that the range of skills which can be taught is reduced. Subcontractors do not take on apprentices. There has been a tendency to upgrade semi-skilled labour rather than train apprentices. There is a general belief that apprentices are uneconomic and costly and employers prefer to employ newly qualified tradesmen from other firms and organisations. Such activities do not generally improve the situation for young people who are trying to find employment in Australia today.

In order to encourage employers to train apprentices a number of national schemes have been used. They are good schemes, schemes which we should support and hopefully modify to suit changing conditions in Australia today. I could talk at length of the apprenticeship system but I will not do so. I complete my speech by saying that we need to look firmly at our apprenticeship system and improve it. By doing that, hope- . fully, we will overcome the unemployment situation.







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