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ACTU hosts summit to focus on the national skill shortage.

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Tuesday, 26 April 2005




TONY EASTLEY: Employer groups and unions will gather in Melbourne today for a national summit on Australia’s skills shortage. There are concerns that the nation’s economic growth is threatened by the lack of skilled workers. Major mining projects are reported to be at risk because of the difficulties that companies face recruiting suitable staff. There’s also concern that apprentices and trainees are quitting before they’re qualified because of bad wages and conditions. Nick Grimm reports.


NICK GRIMM: C orporate Australia needs to recruit more healthy and able young Australians, capable of helping to keep the economy turning.


SHARAN BURROW: There’s no question. If you ask employers what’s the biggest issue for them, it’s skills, right across the board. If you look at the threat to the infrastructure development in our country and therefore economic growth, it’s skills. And if you talk to young people about whether or not they can get secure apprenticeships, they’ll tell you the answer is no.


NICK GRIMM: The nation’s skill shortage will be the focus of a summit being held in Melbourne today, hosted by the ACTU, but drawing together, too, representatives of a range of business and industry groups. ACTU President, Sharan Burrow, wants the summit to examine ways to get more Australians into apprenticeships and traineeships. That done, she also wants to find a way of keeping them there because, Sharan Burrow claims, 60 per cent of trainees and apprentices drop out before gaining their qualifications, discouraged by lousy wages and a lack of support from their bosses.


SHARAN BURROW: It is a shocking statistic and a lot of it’s due to the fact that the government’s cut away at the base the prevocational courses that allowed young people to have a taste, if you like.


NICK GRIMM: The ACTU is urging the federal government to find the money in the upcoming budget to boost wages for apprentices and incentives for employers, along with the creation of an additional 20,000 TAFE places.


SHARAN BURROW: This will all make a big difference to the fact that young people will take up these places and, indeed, remain the distance.


NICK GRIMM: Last week the federal government increased the intake of skilled migrants by 20,000 places, a move dismissed as a stop-gap measure by unions who want strict controls on their use. Employers, meanwhile, have welcomed the boost to skilled migration. The National Director of the Australian Industry Group, Heather Ridout, will be one of the employers representatives today’s summit.


HEATHER RIDOUT: I think taking in migrants … more migrants year in, year out, is a good thing for Australia, it’s a good thing for the Australian economy. And at the moment we have a very intense shortage of skilled tradespeople and skilled professionals in a range of occupations, and increasing that intake is a very positive move and we’ve welcomed it. But in the longer term, in fact in the medium term, we all have to lift our training effort, and industry is indeed doing that, and that’s an essential part of addressing the skills shortage Australia faces.


TONY EASTLEY: Heather Ridout from the Australian Industry Group.