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Minister discusses Trade Diploma proposal; Shadow Minister says it is inadequate to overcome skills shortage.

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Wednesday 14 March 2007

Minister discusses Trade Diploma proposal; Shadow Minister says it is inadequate to overcome skills shortage


MARK COLVIN: The Federal Government has a new scheme to add kudos to the jobs of tradesmen and women. 


It's announced plans for a new honours-style qualification for people who follow a trade. 


The idea is to try to treat them as artisans, in the old European tradition. 


The government sees it as an important tool to address a skills shortage in Australia, as Michael Turtle reports. 


MICHAEL TURTLE: The Minister for Vocational and Further Education, Andrew Robb, believes there's a divide in the country. 


Between those school-leavers who pursue a degree at university, and those who choose to take up a trade. 


ANDREW ROBB: The relentless talking down of technical education through the '80s and the '90s has fostered a generation of parents who feel that they have failed if their children do not pursue a university education, regardless of their kids' technical, creative or vocational skills and talents. 


MICHAEL TURTLE: The Minister has told the National Press Club that he is on a mission to fix this imbalance. 


Mr Robb cites some European countries, where an artisan painter is just as respected and valued in society as a judge. 


ANDREW ROBB: In Europe, for instance, there has been a strong tradition of honouring master artisans, and passing the skills of artisans down from one generation to the next. And I intend to very strongly encourage such recognition and such qualifications and such training.  


MICHAEL TURTLE: The Federal Government will try to encourage this recognition through a new initiative - a Trade Diploma. 


The diploma will be similar to an honours course at a university, allowing people to specialise in a particular area. 


They'd still need to do on-the-job training, but they would finish with a higher, more respected, qualification. 


Andrew Robb, says it's crucial to encourage people to take up a trade, and tackle a skills shortage. 


ANDREW ROBB: It's part of the suite of things we need to do to attract people at many stages of their life to consider, again, filling a training gap that they may not have had the opportunity at an earlier stage.  


MICHAEL TURTLE: The idea of a Trade Diploma was first floated by the TAFE industry late last year. 


The Executive Director of TAFE Directors Australia, Martin Riordan, says it's desperately needed. 


MARTIN RIORDAN: We've been really suffering in Australia from a very narrow base of course types and, in fact, the whole qualification network is very restricted.  


MICHAEL TURTLE: He says, not only will it help address the skills shortage, but it will create builders or electricians, for instance, who are better skilled. 


MARTIN RIORDAN: Often we find in office buildings and in other sort of new types of premises very specialist technology being used, and we can see a good deal of applications to be able to provide industry with better manpower, and a whole series of qualifications. 


MICHAEL TURTLE: The Federal Opposition thinks the action is too little too late. 


Labor spokesman, Stephen Smith, says it won't be enough to plug the expected gap of 200,000 skilled workers. 


STEPHEN SMITH: It's all well and good for the Government to talk in terms of, effectively, a post-graduate degree for skills and training, but they've let the undergraduate degrees run down.  


We've got a massive skills crisis, and that stands right at the feet of the Howard Government's complacency and neglect. 


MARK COLVIN: Labor's Stephen Smith ending that report by Michael Turtle.