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Wednesday, 4 June 2008
Page: 4547

Mr RANDALL (9:36 AM) —I wish to raise today the situation that a number of Western Australian apprentices are now finding themselves in and the impact that the shortage of TAFE teachers is having on both apprentices and the 57 trade industries listed on the department’s national skills needs list. An example is Ryan Crutchley, who lives in my electorate of Canning. Ryan’s parents first approached me regarding their son’s plumbing apprenticeship in July 2007. It seems that the plumbing industry is faring badly as a result of the skills shortage. Last year, despite being in his third year of on-the-job training, Ryan had only completed his first year of theoretical training at TAFE. He was unable to gain a position at TAFE because of the extremely limited placements—a striking but not surprising result of the teacher shortage. Ryan was not alone: there were around 70 apprentices at Beaconsfield TAFE in the same situation at that time.

This year the situation has worsened. As Ryan and a number of other apprentices move into the fourth year of their apprenticeships, they still have not completed their second year of TAFE training, preventing them from moving on to their third-year units. This situation is of great detriment to apprentices. It could mean that young people complete their on-the-job apprenticeship training but are not able to get a ticket because they still have one or two years of theoretical training to go. It hampers employers, who are required to pay the apprentices fourth-year wages but then reluctantly have to forgo utilising their workers for three months training at TAFE. It also means that, despite having four years of on-the-job training, apprentices cannot work unassisted. Although the state Minister for Education and Training, the Hon. Mark McGowan, denies it, there remains a concern that all the focus is being given to getting new apprentices into the system and that the current crop of those already in training is being adversely affected.

The federal government has committed funding for skills training, recognising the importance of upskilling Australians because of the severe shortage. I am all for investing in skills training, as was the coalition. I was a strong advocate of the Australian technical colleges, of which there is one in the Canning electorate; it has been successful. It is vital that those apprentices that are already getting training have the facilities and the teachers to enable them to get into the workforce as fast as possible.

I have raised Ryan’s case with Minister McGowan on more than one occasion, and I am disappointed that the minister has failed to address the underlying issues in relation to the ongoing problem for many apprentices in Western Australia. On 19 May the minister advised me that Challenger TAFE anticipates that Ryan will complete his studies within the indentured period, which concludes on 22 July 2009. At this point in time this seems like wishful thinking. To meet this deadline, the apprentices in these circumstances will have to do more than two years of practical study in the final year of that apprenticeship. (Time expired)